University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Fatigue and aging with a disability


Cook KF, Molton IR, Jensen MP



Publication Info:

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(7):1126-1133


OBJECTIVE: To compare self-reported fatigue in 4 disability populations with age-matched, U.S. population norms. We assessed fatigue and age in a sample of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), postpolio syndrome (PPS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and muscular dystrophy (MD).
DESIGN: This study used survey responses and published age cohort means for fatigue to test the hypothesis that fatigue would be higher in each of 4 clinical samples than the U.S. population norm. We also hypothesized that, for clinical samples, the mean fatigue reported within age cohorts would be higher than the general U.S. population norms for those age ranges derived in the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS).
SETTING: Survey responses were collected from participants in the Washington state area. PARTICIPANTS: Participants (N=1836) were persons with MD (n=337), MS (n=580), Post-polio (n=441), and SCI (n=478).
INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.
RESULTS: Individuals with disabilities reported higher levels of fatigue than the normative PROMIS population. In the normative population, self-reported fatigue was substantially lower in age cohorts from middle age to retirement age. However, individuals with disabilities did not demonstrate this age cohort effect.
CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with disabilities are not only at greater risk to experience fatigue, but this risk, relative to normative values, increases with age. More research is needed to determine the specific negative impact of fatigue symptoms on functioning in individuals with disabilities as they age.

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