Aim: This study aimed to investigate fatigue, and its correlates, in children and adolescents with physical disabilities.
Method: Sixty-five young people aged 8 to 17 years (35 males, 30 females; mean age 13y 2mo, SD 2y 8mo) with mild to moderate physical disabilities (Gillette Functional Assessment Questionnaire levels 7-10) were recruited. Self-reported fatigue was measured using the PedsQL Multidimensional Fatigue Scale. Physical activity was measured using 7-day hip-worn accelerometer. Associations between fatigue, physical activity, and socio-demographic characteristics were examined using analysis of covariance, with significance (α) set at 0.05. Results were compared with normative data from other paediatric populations.
Results: Among children with physical disabilities, fatigue was associated with being physically inactive (F-statistic=4.42, p=0.040), female (F=4.37, p=0.042), and of low socio-economic status (F=3.94, p=0.050). Fatigue was not associated with age, weight status, or functional impairment. Young people with physical disabilities experienced high levels of fatigue compared with other paediatric health populations, and comparable to the paediatric cancer population.
Interpretation: Fatigue is an important issue for young people with physical disabilities. Clinicians and researchers working with this group should be mindful that fatigue is likely to impact on an individual's ability to undertake new treatment regimens or interventions. Interventions aimed at reducing fatigue are warranted. Increasing physical activity might play a role in reducing fatigue.