Objective: There are limited data on the prevalence and stability of fatigue in pediatrics, particularly among youth with chronic pain. Little is known about longitudinal effects of fatigue on health outcomes such as sleep quality, psychological distress, Health-Related Quality of Life, and chronic pain.
Methods: A community-based sample of N = 1276 students (9-17 years; 52% female; 30.3% with chronic pain) from 3 schools was screened at 2 measurement points 3 months apart. Prevalence and stability of fatigue were examined. Longitudinal analyses regarding fatigue and health outcomes were run using repeated measures correlations. The impact of change in fatigue on pain progression was analyzed using multilevel linear models.
Results: In the total community sample, 4.4% reported severe fatigue symptoms. The prevalence of severe fatigue was significantly higher in students with chronic pain (11.4%) compared to those without (1.3%). Fatigue symptoms persisted for several months, worsening of symptoms was more common and improvement less common in children with chronic pain. Sleep, psychological distress, and Health-Related Quality of Life were significantly associated with fatigue across both measurement points (rs = |0.16-0.44|), with no significant differences in the strength of correlations between children with and without chronic pain (ps > .05). There was a significant interaction between change in fatigue and courses of pain intensity and functional impairment.
Conclusions: Fatigue is highly prevalent, particularly in youth with chronic pain. The negative association of fatigue with health outcomes, and its impact on the course of pain, require early identification and treatment of those affected to prevent negative long-term consequences.