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Cross-national comparative studies can describe unique characteristics of complex illnesses, and reveal culture-specific traits of disease frequency/severity and healthcare. Though myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are debilitating conditions worldwide, few studies have examined their characteristics across different countries. Here, levels of functional impairment and symptomatology were compared in patients with ME and CFS at US and Spanish tertiary referral hospitals. Both samples completed the 36-item short-form health survey (SF-36) as a proxy for impairment, and the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire (DSQ) for symptomatology. Patients from Spain functioned significantly worse than those from the US on the SF-36 and were also more symptomatic across all DSQ items. These findings may reflect differences in the US and Spain regarding disability policy, perception of ME and CFS, and access to specialist care.
Type of Research