• Welcome to Phoenix Rising!

    Created in 2008, Phoenix Rising is the largest and oldest forum dedicated to furthering the understanding of and finding treatments for complex chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), long COVID, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and allied diseases.

    To become a member, simply click the Register button at the top right.

Fivefold to eightfold increase in the incidence of ME from 1980 to 1989

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,793
In the 1980s, there was a huge increase in the incidence of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) .

Indeed, this huge increase became a major concern for disability insurance companies in the US, who as a consequence became obliged to fork out billions extra to cover disability payments for this massive wave of new ME patients.

This surge of new ME cases in the 1980s seemingly prompted the government in the US, in cahoots with the disability insurance industry, to create the spurious disease classification of chronic fatigue syndrome, which was very likely set up in a Machiavellian fashion as a condition having a psychological causal component (unlike the existing and otherwise identical disease category of ME, which was and is classified as purely neurological).

The fact that the definition of CFS included possible psychological causes was enough to let the disability insurance companies off the hook, in regards to paying billions in disability support to chronically sick ME patients. Using this newly-created disease of CFS, disability insurance companies could now refuse to provide disability support to ME patients, who were now re-labelled as CFS patients.

They could refuse to provide disability support because regulations are such that although insurance companies are obliged to provide lifetime disability support for chronic crippling physical diseases and conditions, they do not need to provide long-term disability payouts for psychological conditions.

So the invention of the duplicate disease classification of chronic fatigue syndrome helped the disability insurance industry to duck out of paying ME patients disability support, thus saving these insurance companies billions in the wake of this surge in ME incidence in the 1980s.

And of course, although the disability insurance industry's Machiavellian manipulations was only designed to save them money and maintain their profits, the result of inappropriately relabelling ME as CFS, with CFS's psychologically-flavored etiology, had huge repercussions beyond the disability insurance industry's profit-protection ruse.

As medical science started to erroneously reclassify ME as this "all in the mind" condition of CFS, doctors would often no longer treat ME patients seriously. And biomedical research into ME risked falling into the doldrums, as medical professionals, duped like everybody else by the disability insurance industry, incorrectly viewed ME as having a psychological rather than physiological cause.

(Note that disability insurance is also called: disability income insurance, or income protection).



Here are Some References for this Increase in ME Incidence in the 1980s:

This article (also attached here) by Dr Elizabeth Dowsett and Dr John Richardson states that for ME there was:
A 5-8 fold increment world wide, during the period 1980-1989, since when it has remained an endemic disease with periodic epidemic potential.

Here is says:
In the mid 1980’s, the incidence of ME had increased by some seven times in Canada and the UK, while in the USA a major outbreak at Lake Tahoe (wrongly ascribed at first to a herpes virus) led to calls for a new name and new definition for the disease, more descriptive of herpes infection.
The original source for that statement is an article by Dr Elizabeth Dowsett, entitled "Research into ME 1988 - 1998 Too much PHILOSOPHY and too little BASIC SCIENCE!".

This article (also attached here) by Dr Elizabeth Dowsett mentions:
the pandemic between 1980 and 1989 when there was a seven-fold increase in incidence both here and abroad.

An article (also attached here) by Professor Hooper, et al states:
In the US in the late 1970s and 1980s there seemed to be a remarkable rise in incidence of a condition indistinguishable from ME, with manifestations of serious neuro-immune disease and profound incapacity, to the extent that the powerful insurance industry became alarmed.

The insurance industry was concerned that, because there is no National Health Service in the US: "the field could change from an epidemiological investigation into a health insurance nightmare."

On page 655 of Hillary Johnson's book Osler's Web, it says:
In April l994, however, one of the nation’s largest private providers of disability insurance, the UNUM Corporation, issued a press release revealing chronic fatigue syndrome claims to be the fastest-growing sector of their business. According to UNUM, claims for disability caused by CFS had increased 500 percent from 1989 to 1993, a bigger increase than any other category of disability.

During that five-year period, UNUM said, CFS-imposed disability had resulted in a 557 percent increase in claims by women; claims for CFS disability had risen 360 percent among men.
With a 500% increase in ME/CFS cases (which would require a lifetime of disability payouts), you can see the incentive for insurance companies like UNUM to cheat, and to manipulate the system so that they can avoid making these payouts.

Regarding this explosion of ME/CFS cases, UNUM's CFS Management Plan document stated:
"UNUM stands to lose millions if we do not move quickly to address this increasing problem"
Source: Evidence submitted by Professor Malcolm Hooper to UK Parliament Select Committee March 2007

Simon Wessely says in this 1989 paper that:
there is also an apparent epidemic of new cases [of ME/CFS]




Here are Some References that Suggest the Disability Insurance Industry Very Likely Manipulated the CDC and Encouraged Bogus Medical Research in a Machiavellian Fashion:

Hillary Johnson, in her book Osler's Web, says the following about the creation of the CFS category:
A small group of politically motivated and/or poorly informed scientists and doctors who were vastly more concerned about cost to insurance companies and the Social Security Administration than about public health. Their deliberate intention – based on the correspondence they exchanged over a period of months – was to obfuscate the nature of the disease by placing it in the realm of the psychiatric rather than the organic. The harm they have caused is surely one of the greatest tragedies in the history of medicine.

Source: Who benefits from 'CFS'


This blog article is also interesting:
In the 1980s, there were a series of cluster outbreaks throughout the United States of a disease that was probably Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) - except that the name and diagnosis was not used in the US. First the outbreaks were labeled Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus (CEBV), because a lot of cases seemed to start with mono, but that theory was soon discarded by NIH's point man on EBV, Stephen Straus. He then began using the phrase "the chronic fatigue syndrome" to identify the outbreaks in internal memos in 1986.

CFS convened a committee in 1988 to rename and define CEBV. There were specialists at the meeting who insisted the outbreaks were really cases of ME, but neither Gary Holmes from CDC, nor Straus from NIH, paid any attention to that. ME is not mentioned in either the body or footnotes of the resulting article, which became known because it gave the first definition for CFS: Holmes (1988).

The name and concept CFS was thus thrown out to the world in 1988. At the time, WHO was on ICD-9 (the 9th revision), but was no longer making changes to ICD-9 because they were getting ready to roll out ICD-10. And ICD-10 was released to the world in 1992.

Since CFS was not in ICD-9, as long as the US continued to use it, they were free to place CFS wherever they wanted. The US uses a modification of ICD-9 called ICD-9-CM (for "clinical modification"). In 1997, the US placed CFS in 780.71, under "Symptoms, Signs, and Ill-Defined Syndromes" in ICD-9-CM. And there it has remained for almost 20 years.


And I thought the following comment posted on this Medscape article (free login required) was very telling:
Peter White fails to mention one important consideration when it comes to the diagnosis given to patients: CFS brings with it the danger of insurance companies turning down claims from patients.

White was happy to expand upon this when he was discussing the results of his PACE trial with his employers at Swiss Re:

"A final point specific to claims assessment, and a question we’re often asked, is whether CFS would fall within a mental health exclusion, if one applies to a policy. The answer to this lies within the precise exclusion wording. If the policy refers to functional somatic syndromes in addition to mental health, then CFS may fall within the exclusion. If the policy doesn’t refer to functional somatic syndromes as well as mental health then it would be difficult to apply.

The point made is that a diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME (a term often used colloquially instead of CFS) is considered a neurological condition according to the arrangement of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) diagnostic codes whereas CFS can alternatively be defined as neurasthenia which is in the mental health chapter of ICD10."
Note: The original Swiss Re Insurance webpage where Peter White makes the above comment has been archived here.

Some more articles on the CFS disease category psychologizing the illness for insurance purposes are found here:
Updated U.S. Illness Codes Perpetuate Medical Ignorance of ME/CFS
ME/CFS: TERMINOLOGY — Margaret Williams
Who benefits from 'CFS' and 'ME/CFS'?



OK, so the way the Machiavellian disability insurance industry may have manipulated government and medical science alike is one thing; but what actually caused this apparent huge increase in ME incidence in the 1980s, assuming it was a real increase, and not just an increase in diagnosis?

What could have caused a 5 to 8-fold worldwide increase in the incidence of ME? We look at some possibilities in the following sections:



Could the Introduction of the Poliovirus Vaccine Have Inadvertently Created the 1980s Explosion in ME/CFS Cases?

One possible cause of the 1980s explosion in ME/CFS cases might be the introduction of the polio vaccine in the late 1950s: This is because natural infection from poliovirus (which the vaccine eliminated from the wild) confers some cross-immunity against the ill effects of other enteroviruses such as coxsackievirus B and echovirus — two major viruses linked to ME/CFS.

This very real possibility is discussed in detail here.



Could the Increased Use of Pesticides Have Created the 1980s Explosion in ME/CFS Cases?

One factor that possibly might be a culprit is the large increase in pesticide usage that occurred from the 1960 to 1980. This increase is shown in the graph here:

Pesticide usage in the US.png

Source: here.​

Studies have shown that pesticide exposure significantly increases the risk of developing ME. Refs: 1 2. Pyrethroid pesticides have been linked to ME too. Ref: 1. Organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and dieldrin have also been linked to ME. Refs: 1 2. But most organochlorines have been banned for several decades now. So the significant increase in pesticide usage that peaked in the 1980s and has remained high ever since might explain the huge increase in ME incidence in the 1980s that has also remained high ever since.




.
 

Attachments

  • Epidemiology of ME - Dr Elizabeth Dowsett and Dr John Richardson.pdf
    203.9 KB · Views: 21
  • Medical Research Council (CFS-ME Research Advisory Group) Draft Document.pdf
    88.7 KB · Views: 12
  • What_is_ME_What_is_CFS.pdf
    253.7 KB · Views: 16
Last edited:

Asa

Senior Member
Messages
179
For what it's worth, I was living amid a large farm when I got hit with this, in 2009 though. The farm's been a farm though for generations, so I don't know what this means for the soil and the ground (and well?) water.

One of my dogs died prematurely too, and so I've wondered about that as well. No way to know though... (but of course you wonder if you did all you could to keep them (and yourself) safe!)
 
Last edited:

Skippa

Anti-BS
Messages
841
There are loads of things, I bet correlative graphs would seem to tie in with many things.

The 80s were a bit of a boom time for developed capitalistic nations, we got exposed on so many levels to so many things in big ways.

Air travel
Car ownership (lead)
Vaccinations
Personal computers
Mass consumerism of foodstuffs
Wireless technology
Nuclear everything
Rise of plastics
Psychiatric medications wholesale

And many many more.
 

Chrisb

Senior Member
Messages
1,051
I think that I have seen this theory expressed in relation to early outbreaks of polio in, I think, California and Ohio, though I may be wrong and do not at present have energy to check. The outbreaks coincided with crop or orchard spraying. Who knows?

Was not the hypothesis that although many are exposed to the virus those who go down with the illness have been exposed to some co factor? I recently read the theory that FDR must have been exposed to the polio virus weeks before his icy swim must have compromised the immune system and immediately caused his illness.

Clearly there has been an increase in diagnosis under the CFS criteria but that would not account for the increase in the 1980s. In 1980/81 the consultant physician in a large General Hospital, who also had a private practice, said to me that he knew of only one possibly similar case.
 

taniaaust1

Senior Member
Messages
13,054
Location
Sth Australia
What could have caused a 5 to 8-fold worldwide increase in the incidence of ME? That is an enormous increase.

It is completely normal for certain diseases to every now and them go into epidemics so it is probable that ME is just like other diseases. In the early 1950s and for a period on for several years, from my previous researches on ME epidemics I believe was one of our worst outbreaks in several places in the world.

We had two outbreaks in different states of Australia in the 1950s.. one which was in the area where my grandmother lives (my grandmother has FM, IBS and other things.. and me and 3 other affected with ME/CFS family members can all genetically link our ME/CFS back to her and 3 of her sons.. could she be a carrier of ME/CFS after the outbreak?? never to develop ME/CFS but only to end up with FM?)
 

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,793
I am interested in how pesticide exposure significantly increases the risk of developing ME/CFS, as in the year just prior to catching the suspected enterovirus that I think played a major role in triggering my ME/CFS, I also suffered a rather nasty chronic exposure to the organophosphate pesticide Malathion inside the house where I live.

A significant amount of a 500 ml bottle of Malathion was spilled on the floor inside my house, when the bottle was accidentally knocked over, and it was not properly cleaned up, as the person using it apparently had no idea that pesticides can be dangerous chemicals.

Malathion is particularly insidious if a significant quantity is spilt in an indoor environment (such as a house, workplace, garage or barn), because although the pesticide toxicity class of Malathion is relatively low, one of the breakdown products of Malathion called Malaoxon is 1,000 times more toxic than the original Malathion, in terms of its acetylcholinesterase activity (ref: 1).

So for example, if you spilt say 100 ml of Malathion in an indoor environment, where this chemical cannot easy be dispersed by wind or rain and so remains in situ, then as it breaks down into the much more toxic Malaoxon, it is as if you had spilt 1,000 x 100 ml = 10 liters of pesticide in the indoor environment!

With the equivalent of 10 liters of pesticide floating around in your home or workplace, contaminating the indoor air and surfaces, it is not surprising that it can seriously affect your health, as it did mine at the time.

Malathion is the toxic pesticide that keeps on giving!
 
Last edited:

duncan

Senior Member
Messages
2,240
Of course, back in the 80's there was a commensurate rise in the incidence of Lyme disease in the United States.
 

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,793
If you aren't looking, you won't see. I don't think the underlying prevalence has changed much.

That seems to be Simon Wessely's view. In this paper he says:
The rise of CFS during the 1980s can be traced to the coincidence of new clinical and research observations, largely concerning possible links with infective agents and immune dysfunction, the changing nature
of the relationship between doctor and patient (4), and consumer pressure.
 

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,793
There are loads of things, I bet correlative graphs would seem to tie in with many things.

Just quoting random things does not really help. If you want to find an environmental factor whose rise matches the rise in ME/CFS cases in the 1980s, you need to identify an environmental factor that significantly increased in the 1970s and 1980s, and then from the 1980 onwards, has remained at a high level ever since.

That then will match the increase in reported ME/CFS cases during the 1980s — an increase in cases which has remained high ever since.

That environmental factor should also be one known to cause neurological or immunological damage or dysfunction, and ideally one that has been linked to ME/CFS.

Pesticides fit all those requirements.
 
Last edited:

duncan

Senior Member
Messages
2,240
Lyme fits the bill. It is known to cause neurological and/or immunological damage. And - in the US at least - it meshes chronologically with the topic of this thread and the dramatic increases in ME/CFS incidence as well.

Whether one believes in the Lyme connection or not, it is an intriguing correlation.
 

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,793
Of course, back in the 80's there was a commensurate rise in the incidence of Lyme disease in the United States.

Would you happen to have any references for this? I've heard that Lyme is on the increase over the last decade or so, but had not heard about the large increases in the 1980s.



Lyme fits the bill. It is known to cause neurological and/or immunological damage. And - in the US at least - it meshes chronologically with the topic of this thread and the dramatic increases in ME/CFS incidence as well.

I would think more along the lines that an environment factor such as increased pesticide usage may have been responsible for both the large increase in ME/CFS during the 1980s, as well as the increase in Lyme cases that you say occurred in the same decade.

My hunch has always been that ME/CFS is not caused by an infectious pathogen alone, but is caused by an infectious pathogen plus additional factors such pesticide or mold exposure. Those additional factors may for example increase the risk of developing autoimmune reactions, and/or might cause some immune dysfunction that makes it harder for the body to fight off the pathogen.
 
Messages
13,774
Figures before the 1990s are likely to be a complete mess. I'd be interested to know what's happened to prevalence since then, but have never seen any good data on this.
 

duncan

Senior Member
Messages
2,240
@Hip ,the rate of Lyme incidence was likely higher than the rise in ME/CFS during the '80's. Remember, it was a newly minted disease, not unlike HIV.

The accuracy of reporting was likely problematic, as it still is, but that also holds true for ME/CFS.
 
Last edited:

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,793
Figures before the 1990s are likely to be a complete mess.

I think we can pretty certain that there was a large increase in diagnosed ME/CFS cases during the 1980s, otherwise the disability insurance industry would not have been so worried about the many billions it would have had to pay out for this wave of new ME/CFS patients (they got out of paying by creating "chronic fatigue syndrome").
 

Deltrus

Senior Member
Messages
271
@Hip would one time exposure to diazinon have a harmful effect? Also how long does it take to get delayed neuropathy from this stuff?

Also what the fuck insurance companies. No wonder so many diseases were considered "psychological". That is so unbelievably disgusting.
 
Messages
13,774
I think we can pretty certain that there was a large increase in diagnosed ME/CFS cases during the 1980s, otherwise the disability insurance industry would not have been so worried about the many billions it would have had to pay out for this wave of new ME/CFS patients (they got out of paying by creating "chronic fatigue syndrome").

Yeah, but that doesn't tell us much about incidence. As a political and financial matter we can certainly say 'CFS' became a more of an issue through that period.