Objectives. To evaluate the efficacy of a self-help booklet and specific advice in reducing chronic fatigue in a primary care population aged 18–34 years.
Design. A randomized controlled trial.
Methods. A self-help intervention (N = 70) was compared with no treatment (N = 80). The main outcome measures were a fatigue questionnaire and the 12-item General Health Questionnaire. Follow-up was completed on 127 patients.
Results. The self-help group showed significantly greater improvements in fatigue (p = .01) and psychological distress (p < .01) than controls. At follow-up, 63 per cent of the self-help completers achieved a good outcome (scored less than 4 on the fatigue questionnaire) compared with 39 per cent of the control group.
Conclusions. The provision of a self-help booklet and specific advice during a consultation with a research nurse was more effective than no treatment at improving fatigue and psychological distress. General practitioners should be encouraged to use self-help literature in the management of patients with chronic fatigue.