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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Further validation of the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory in a US adult population sample

Jin-Mann S Lin1*, Dana J Brimmer1, Elizabeth M Maloney1, Ernestina Nyarko12, Rhonda BeLue3 and William C Reeves1

Author Affiliations

1 Chronic Viral Diseases Branch, National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne and Enteric Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mail Stop A-15, 1600 Clifton Rd, NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

2 Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

3 Department of Health Policy and Administration, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

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Population Health Metrics 2009, 7:18  doi:10.1186/1478-7954-7-18

Published: 15 December 2009

Abstract

Background

The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI-20) was developed in 1995. Since then, it has been widely used in cancer research and cancer-related illnesses but has never been validated in fatiguing illnesses or in a large US population-selected sample. In this study, we sought to examine the reliability and validity of the MFI-20 in the population of the state of Georgia, USA. Further, we assessed whether the MFI-20 could serve as a complementary diagnostic tool in chronically fatigued and unwell populations.

Methods

The data derive from a cross-sectional population-based study investigating the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in Georgia. The study sample was comprised of three diagnostic groups: CFS-like (292), chronically unwell (269), and well (222). Participants completed the MFI-20 along with several other measures of psychosocial functioning, including the Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form-36 (SF-36), the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS), and the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). We assessed the five MFI-20 subscales using several criteria: inter-item correlations, corrected item-total correlations, internal consistency reliability (Cronbach's alpha coefficients), construct validity, discriminant (known-group) validity, floor/ceiling effects, and convergent validity through correlations with the SF-36, SDS, and STAI instruments.

Results

Averaged inter-item correlations ranged from 0.38 to 0.61, indicating no item redundancy. Corrected item-total correlations for all MFI-20 subscales were greater than 0.30, and Cronbach's alpha coefficients achieved an acceptable level of 0.70. No significant floor/ceiling effect was observed. Factor analysis demonstrated factorial complexity. The MFI-20 also distinguished clearly between three diagnostic groups on all subscales. Furthermore, correlations with depression (SDS), anxiety (STAI), and functional impairment (SF-36) demonstrated strong convergent validity.

Conclusions

This study provides support for the MFI-20 as a valuable tool when used in chronically unwell and well populations. It also suggests that the MFI-20 could serve as a complementary diagnostic tool in fatiguing illnesses, such as CFS.