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Researchers Find Differences in Physical Function Between Black and White People with MS

February 19, 2024

Walking and physical function were worse among Black people compared to white people in a study of 208 people with MS. The team reported that the results were not due to social factors such as employment and income. This study was supported by the National MS Society. Such studies are crucial for developing interventions that can improve physical functions in ALL people affected by MS.
Background: Evidence is increasing for the benefits of increasing exercise and all types of physical activity for people with MS. However, research also is showing that people with MS are significantly less active when compared to those without the disease. This team compared walking and physical function between white and Black people with and without MS. They also sought to determine whether social determinants of health – factors such as income or years of education – contributed to differences.

The Study: The team from University of Illinois Chicago and Joi Life Wellness Group (Smyrna, GA) enrolled 208 people with MS and 95 people without MS. They measured walking and physical function using standard clinical study measures such as the timed 25-foot walk and six-minute walk. In analyzing differences between Black and white individuals, they looked at social determinants of health such as education, employment, income.

Results: The results indicated that Black people with MS had significantly worse scores on tests of walking and physical function. Social determinants of health did not seem to affect these scores.

Why Does this Matter? The results of this study indicate that important differences exist between Black and white people with MS with respect to physical function. According to this study, these differences are due to how MS affects Black people, which as we are learning, differs from how MS affects white people. Such studies are important for the development of rehabilitation interventions that can restore function in ALL people with MS.

Learn more…
Get involved in MS research for the Black community
 Download  Living Well with MS: A Guide for Black Americans (.pdf)
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Walking and physical performance in black and white adults with multiple sclerosis controlling for social determinants of health,” by Trinh L.T. Huynh, Mitzi J. Williams, and Robert W. Motl, was published in MS and Related Disorders (VOLUME 83, 105439, MARCH 2024).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National MS Society, founded in 1946, is the global leader of a growing movement dedicated to creating a world free of MS. The Society funds cutting-edge research for a cure, drives change through advocacy and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more and get involved:, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.


© 2024 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.