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New Study Suggests People with MS are at Increased Risk for Depression, Anxiety and other Psychiatric Disorders

December 16, 2015

Summary
  • A large-scale study from Canada suggests that people with MS have increased rates of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia compared to people without MS.
  • Among people with MS, women were more likely than men to develop depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder, while men were more likely than women to develop schizophrenia. Although women with MS were more likely to develop depression than men, men developed depression at a much higher rate compared to men without MS. 
  • This study provides new information about the risks of psychiatric disorders in people with MS. Recognizing and addressing issues related to mental and emotional health can greatly improve quality of life for individuals and families.
  • The National MS Society is focusing a light on psychosocial issues and emotional health in MS as part of its commitment to drive research and programs in wellness.  
  • The team (Ruth Ann Marrie, MD, PhD) published their results in Neurology (2015;85:1–8).
Details
Background: In scientific terms, having two chronic medical conditions at once is called “comorbidity.” There is growing recognition that comorbidities may complicate the diagnosis of MS and also influence disease progression, as well as an individual’s wellness and quality of life.  It has long been known that depression and bipolar disorder are more common among people with MS than in the general population. In a recent study from Dr. Marrie and others, psychiatric disorders (depression and anxiety) were among the five most prevalent disorders occurring alongside MS. The current study specifically looks at psychiatric comorbidities in people with MS.
   
The Study: The team identified 44,452 persons with MS and 220,849 controls without the disease in administrative medical data from four Canadian provinces. They examined medical records to determine the incidence (new cases) and prevalence (all existing cases) of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia from 1995 to 2005 among these groups.
 
The results show that the incidence and prevalence of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia were all higher in people with MS than in people without MS in the control population. Among people with MS, women were more likely than men to develop depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder, while men were more likely than women to develop schizophrenia. Although women with MS were more likely to develop depression than men, men developed depression at a much higher rate compared to men without MS. 
 
Results were published in Neurology (2015;85:1–8).
 
Next Steps: This study adds to a growing body of evidence on conditions that occur alongside MS. The National MS Society is focusing increased attention on psychosocial conditions in MS as part of its commitment to drive research and programs in wellness. Read more
 
In the face of a chronic, often progressive illness like MS, people may tend to focus primarily on their physical health and neglect their emotional health -- which is an essential component of overall health and wellness. Recognizing and addressing  issues related to mental and emotional health can greatly improve quality of life for individuals and families. Read more about emotional health and MS

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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