​The Danish study of Functional Disorders

The DanFunD study represents the first major longitudinal population-based study in the field of what is commonly referred to as functional disorders/functional somatic syndromes or medically unexplained illnesses. These conditions are fairly common in the general population but cannot be explained in terms of a conventional medical or surgical disease. In the DanFunD study, the functional disorders are represented by irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, whiplash associated disorders and multiple chemical sensitivity. However, data will likewise be used to study other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, allergy and asthma.

During a physical examination we measured a number of factors that may affect health, some examples being blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, fitness, muscle strength, lung function, pain threshold and variation in heart rates. All participants also fill in a comprehensive questionnaire about physical and mental health factors as well as lifestyle and social factors and a biobank containing blood, urine and faeces samples for the participants were likewise established.

The superior aim of DanFunD

By means of traditional epidemiological methods, it is the superior aim of the DanFunD study to unravel the causes and mechanisms leading to the development of functional disorders, examine how best to delimitate these conditions and uncover the burden of these conditions for the individual person and for the society. Accumulated, it is our long-term expectation that the DanFunD study will help us achieve a similar knowledge of functional disorders to what has been generated for other chronic diseases using epidemiological methods. This will likely make it possible to optimize and implement more effective strategies for prevention and treatment in the future which is will beneficial for both affected patients and the society as a whole.

The specific research question of the DanFunD study to be investigated

1. Delimitation & occurrence

  • How do we best define functional disorders and how frequent are they in the population? New constellations of symptoms will be investigated and compared with the traditional delimitations.

2. Mechanisms involved in the development of disease

  • Describe the causal web of functional disorders, including the influence of genes, the microbiome, immunological factors, fatty acids, autonomic nervous system, central pain regulation, personality, psychological factors etc.

3. Identify primary risk factor

  • What are the common risk factors for developing a functional disorder? We want to identify important risk factors for the development of functional disorders and determine if the same risk factors are equally important for all the different form of functional disorders in focus. Possible risk factors could be lifestyle and major life events, personality factors, different organic pollutants, genetic variants, infections etc. 

4. Consequences for the individual and society

  • What are the consequences of functional disorders, both on an individual level and for society as a whole? 
  • What is the prognosis when suffering from a functional disorder? Are they stabile over time or do they fluctuate? Are they likely to disappear or do they worsen over time? 
  • What impact does a functional disorder have on factors such as overall quality of life, employment situation and retirement, a person’s use of the healthcare system, comorbidities, and life expectancies?

Contact person: Thomas Dantoft, Postdoc, PhD, MSc (Eng)

Send en email til Thomas Dantoft thomas.meinertz.dantoft@regionh.dk, tel +45 38634248

External funding

The DanFunD study is supported financially by the Danish foundation TrygFonden and the Lundbeck Foundation.