The Genetic Component of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Published: July 13, 2012

In the past, our clinical experience is that about half of our CFS and fibromyalgia patients have a family member that also has the illness. This was shown to be the case in a recent study looking at this question.

It seems fitting to me that this study should come out of Salt Lake City, which is a center of the Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormon) community — which excels in the study of genealogy. In this study, a computerized genealogical resource linking as many as 15 generations of genealogy data with medical diagnosis data in a large Utah health care system was used. Comparing this to the expected rate of CFS, the researchers estimated the relative risk of developing CFS in first, second and third degree relatives of CFS cases.

The Findings?

Risk was increased 2.7 fold in first degree relatives (children, parents and siblings) and approximately doubled in more distant relations.

For those worried about their children getting CFS, this study can actually offer reassurance, as the genetic connection, though significant, is milder than in many illnesses. For example, if we use a 1% figure for the prevalence of CFS, this means the child of a person with CFS has less than a 1 in 30 chance of getting the syndrome. Not too bad!

I love to see organizations and communities using their strengths to help advance medical care. Kudos to the LDS community!


Evidence for a Heritable Predisposition to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Frederick Albright, Kathleen Light, Alan Light, Lucinda Bateman, Lisa A .Cannon-Albright. BMC Neurology 2011, 11:62 doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-62

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

e-mail icon
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon