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Chronic fatigue: an evolutionary concept analysis


R. Jorgensen: e-mail:


Title. Chronic fatigue: an evolutionary concept analysis.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a concept analysis of chronic fatigue.

Background.  Fatigue is a prevalent symptom encompassing both acute and chronic manifestations. It is chronic fatigue that is most problematic because of its duration and impact on life quality. The rise in prevalence of chronic conditions will result in a need to address coexistent symptoms, clarification of which is needed. Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms in chronic illness. Clarification of the concept and an understanding of its use by discipline are needed.

Data sources.  The evolutionary method of concept analysis was used to ascertain the attributes, antecedents, consequences and surrogate terms for chronic fatigue. A review of the literature published between 1966 and 2007 was carried out to determine the contextual use of the concept of chronic fatigue among disciplines. Sources used for this analysis included CINAHL, Medline, PsychINFO and Social Work Abstracts and the search yielded 66 papers.

Results.  The chronic fatigue experience is associated with a multitude of physical, psychological and social factors. The defining attributes of chronic fatigue are constancy, abnormality, whole-body experience, inexplicability and disabling. The antecedents of chronic fatigue are physical disease, psychopathology, female gender and a history of abuse. Consequences found include social isolation and stigmatization, physical inactivity, psychological disturbances and a reduced quality of life.

Conclusion.  Further research is needed to identify the aetiology of chronic fatigue and to address the social context of living with this disabling symptom.