Whatever happened to Yuppie Flu?

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For anyone that that missed the 1980s yuppie phenomena, yuppie stands for young upwardly mobile professionals or young urban professionals.  The term mocked, the upper middle class who were in their 20s and 30s who worked hard and played hard. They were seen as self-absorbed young professionals, who earned good money and spent it on enjoying all of the cultural attractions of sophisticated urban life and they were completely out of touch with the problems and challenges faced by the less well-off.

So basically they were selfish and in 1987 the national newspapers gave them their own flu, and the term Yuppie Flu started to circulate quicker than a cold virus.

The problem was that you didn’t actually have to be middle class, upwardly mobile nor self absorbed to get Yuppie Flu so gradually the terms Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Post viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS) started to circulate.

In 1988 the World Health Organisation (WHO) attempted to separate the classifications of ME, CFS and PVFS.  This was a brave move considering nobody had clear ideas about the differences and ME had already been categorised as a neurological condition which propagated the belief that it was ‘all in the mind’.

In the 1980s and early 1990s a large portion of the medical profession were Chronic Fatigue Syndrome denialists. Sufferers were branded as hypochondriacs, suffering from psychosomatic symptoms, shirkers and just charlatans trying to get out of working.

The controversy still rages and the distinctions between ME, CFS and PVFS are still not clear. However the number of research papers published on the subject quadrupled between 1987 and 1991 and CFS clearly remains on the medical research agenda.

The causes are still unknown. Many theories exist from viral infections, oxidative stress, genetics and pathogenic bacteria to pituitary and other gland abnormalities, imbalances in the immune system and psychosocial problems. One of the problems also seems to be that the immune system usually gives some indication of what may be the cause of an illness, for bacterial infections certain leukocyte cell levels are elevated, similarly other subsets of lymphocytes can be elevated if there is a viral cause, but chronic fatigue syndrome can occur with both leucopenia and elevated white cell counts as well as with autoimmune components.

There remains no clear treatment plan and little consensus as to how to diagnose the problem, so of the 1 million Americans with CFS, a huge 80% are probably undiagnosed. The National Health Service believes there are approximately 250,000 people in the UK with the illness.

The last official information for diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was released in 2007 and suggests considering a diagnosis of CFS if a person has fatigue and all of the following apply

  • it is new or had a clear starting point (it has not been a lifelong problem)
  • it is persistent and/or recurrent
  • it is unexplained by other conditions
  • it substantially reduces the amount of activity someone can do
  • it feels worse after physical activity

The person should also have one or more of these symptoms

  • difficulty sleeping, or insomnia
  • muscle or joint pain without inflammation
  • headaches
  • painful lymph nodes that are not enlarged
  • sore throat
  • poor mental function, such as difficulty thinking
  • symptoms getting worse after physical or mental exertion
  • feeling unwell or having flu-like symptoms
  • dizziness or nausea
  • heart palpitations, without heart disease

There appears to be no particular group that is more susceptible to the illness than others. Between 60 and 85% of cases are women but that may be because men are less likely to report the illness. A 2009 study showed that lower income groups are slightly more likely to develop CFS and that African Americans and Native Americans have a higher risk of CFS. The illness is reported to occur more frequently in people between the ages of 40 and 59.

So Yuppies are actually less likely than non Yuppies to get Yuppie flu and it hasn’t gone away. It is alive and kicking, cause still unknown and just as debilitating as it ever was.

Famous People who have had CFS: Paul Atherton, TV Film Producer;  Susan Blackmore, writer;  Stevie Nicks, singer;  Olaf Bodden, German footballer;  Cher, actress;  Tom Clarke, politician;  Neil Codling, keyboard player Suede;  Michael Crawford, actor and singer; Laura Dundovic, Miss Universe;  Blake Edwards, film director;  Michael Balzary, Bassist of Red Hot chilli Peppers;  Clare Francis, yachtswoman;  Susan Harris, TV writer and presenter;  Laura Hillenbrand, author;  Andy Hunt, Footballer;  Keith Jarrett, Jazz pianist;













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