The financial and psychological impacts on mothers of children with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)



Background  Paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME) is relatively common and children can be severely affected attending little or no school for extended periods. There are no studies quantifying the financial impact of having a child with CFS/ME and there is little information of the impact on parental mood.

Methods  Forty mothers of children with CFS/ME from a regional specialist CFS/ME service completed inventories to assess their psychological well-being (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, General Health Questionnaire-12) loss of earnings and increased expenditure. In addition, eight mothers took part in a semi-structured qualitative interview.

Results  Most parents of children with CFS/ME experience loss of monthly income (mean =£247) and increase in monthly expenditure (mean =£206). Twenty-eight (72%) mothers were above the cut-off for the General Health Questionnaire-12 compared with 20% in the healthy population (95% CI 55, 85, P < 0.001) suggesting they probably have a mental health problem. This may be explained by the qualitative interviews where mothers described five areas contributing to poor parental health: lack of understanding from others; marital tension; concern about their child's distress; concern about the impact on siblings and emotional distress causing physical symptoms.

Conclusions  The majority of families of children with CFS/ME experience decreased income and increased expenditure with a marked impact on maternal psychological health. Clinicians need to be aware of this to provide appropriate support to families who care for children with CFS/ME.