Fatigue as a social & medical problem, has been seriously researched since the ‘90s, however the existence of fatigue is as old as mankind itself.
Fatigue could be physical, mental or both, & is a difficult to define, persistent feeling of tiredness,weakness, lethargy ,exhausation, reduced energy levels etc. While Dittner,Sharpe, & Loge amongst others, researched the social impact of Fatigue; Lewis & Wellesly are better known for their studies on the medical aspects of Chronic Fatigue. It was Chen&Bultman, who quantified the economic costs of fatigue in their 2002, 45 companies study; not to forget the longtitudional study on Fatigue by the US Medical care survey, covering 7 million participants.
The causes of Fatigue are established to include, illness, inadequate rest & sleep ,inappropriate foods, obesity, lack of physical fitness, stress at work & home, smoking, alcohol etc .Besides tiredness the effects of fatigue include, lower immunity & healing, drowsiness, depression ,confusion, memory lapses, lower productivity, bodyache, headache, etc
In 2009, Apollo hospitals conducted its 6 city India(Fatigue) study, by co-relating medical factors with the lifestyle analysis of the thousands of Medical Check Up (MHC) clients, who utilized the hospital facilities in Chennai, Hyderabad, Madurai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, & Kolkatta. The study population was 63% male & 37% female. The bigger cities had higher levels of fatigue 38% as compared to the smaller towns at 20%.
It was found that on an average 27% of Indians were fatigued, as compared to 20% in USA,25% in Australia,& 18% in UK.
Females in India , as is noticed worldwide, are the more fatigued gender at 31%, as compared to 25% of male indiansbeing fatigued .Age seemed to have no co-relation with fatigue in either gender, however education status ,favourslower levels of fatiguein the more educated.Females exhibited symptoms of Fatigue at Haemoglobin levels of 11,wheras males began to show symptoms of fatigue at levels of 13.
Common medical outcomes of Fatigue included, Insomnia 39%, headache 37%,Digestive problems 35%, body& back ache 33%.Non medical symptoms included ,tiredness 29%,weakness26%,no energy 24%,confusion & memory lapses 46%.
Stress is perhaps the major causative factor in fatigue, & fatigue was determined in 45% of persons who were rated as highly stressed. Fatigue was also ascertained in 30% of persons with a passive personality,& 26% of persons with family problems.
Amongst Workers & Executives ,Chen & Bultman in their 2002 study established the Fatigue percentile in industry at 22%, with causes including overwork, long hours, shift duty, smoking, lack of exercise, poor eating habits & irregular meal timings. The resultant effect of lower productivity, at 27% was reported in India, in the 2008 ICRIER study
Both overweight & Underweight individuals were prone to Fatigue, with overweight being more susceptible, ie39%, as opposed to 27% underweight.
Food plays a major role in Fatigue & it was found that 34% of individuals who ate fast foods suffered from fatigue. Amongst those who ate at home only 17% faced Fatigue .It was also established that eating fruit & salads greatlycombatted fatigue, & less than 10% of this group persons suffered from fatigue.
It was found that Fatigue was more prevelant at 29% , amongst those who did not exercise & were physically unfit. This is further compounded by smoking & daily alcohol intake with more than 50% of this group reporting Fatigue.
In conclusion, the Apollo study emphasizes that, fatigue is almost totally controllable through appropriate stress management, sufficient rest & sleep, a balanced diet, daily intake of fruits & salad, avoiding commercial foods,a daily one hour bout of exercise(walking, yoga) & avoiding alcohol & smoking.
Prof Adrian Kennedy