The reason this is a big deal is that there has NEVER been a population study done to estimate the number of children and teens with ME/CFS. The U.S. CDC has undertaken two huge population studies in the past decades - one in the Quad cities in Iowa and a more recent one in the Atlanta area - however, both of those studies included only adults, over age 18. Incidentally, those studies estimated 1 million adults in the US with ME/CFS and 4 million, respectively (most people feel that the second study used criteria that was too loosely defined).
To be accurate, this new study out of the UK is not a full-blown population study. It relied on self-reported surveys from teens and parents. A real population study - like the two conducted in the United States - use multiple phases to identify and confirm diagnosis of ME/CFS. They start with a phone survey, then a more detailed paper survey (or vice-versa), and finally identified potential patients are actually examined by a doctor to confirm that they do indeed have ME/CFS. So, this is more of a population estimate...but it is still the first time EVER that any attempt has been made to count children and teens with ME/CFS - a very significant event, especially for those of us with children with the disease.
So, what did the study show? It reported that 2% (1 in 50) of the teens studied self-reported symptoms that matched ME/CFS, lasting more than 6 months, and 3% had ME/CFS symptoms lasting at least 3 months (the UK definition). It also reported that past age 13, girls were more likely than boys to develop ME/CFS (I'm assuming the numbers were similar for the genders in younger children). Finally, they found greater numbers of ME/CFS in children from poorer economic status, hopefully putting to rest the "yuppie flu" moniker forever!
The study is being reported in mainstream media outlets:
- Science Daily article - pretty good, mentions the lack of real treatment in the UK and the huge lack of awareness and understanding of ME/CFS - taken directly from the University of Bristol's press release.
- Newsweek - eh, not so good. They do report on the study, but their background "facts" are very limited, focusing on "tiredness" and the CDC definition, with absolutely no mention of immune dysfunction or infectious agents. I left a comment, filling in some of the gaps.
Please share this study widely to help spread awareness of just how common ME/CFS is in children and teens! (I would use the Science Daily link to share).