Disability Harms Mental Health in Multiple Sclerosis

September 9, 2014
Sreeram Ramagopalan, PhD

This study found a positive relationship between physical disability and anxiety and depression, pointing to a need for routine evaluation.

The prevalence of both anxiety and depression is known to be relatively high in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with that in the general population. However, the results of studies of the relationship between physical disability and mental health in people with MS have been conflicting.

In this study,1 using the online UK MS register, researchers tried to see if mental health relates to physical disability.

Between May 2011 and April 2012, 4516 people completed online questionnaires via the dedicated Internet site of the UK MS Register within a 7-day time window. These responses were linked with basic demographic and descriptive data.

The proportions of people experiencing anxiety or depression increased with physical disability-38.0% of respondents with low disability and 66.7% with high disability reported at least mild anxiety, and 17.1% of people with low disability and 71.7% with high disability experienced at least mild depression.

Although this study is limited to an Internet-savvy patient audience, is cross sectional in nature, and uses nonstandard definitions of disability, it does indicate that there is a positive relationship between physical disability and anxiety and depression and that physical disability affects anxiety and depression to differing extents.

The adverse mental health of patients with MS is gaining increasing recognition. This study further emphasizes the fact that the mental health status of these patients should be evaluated routinely.

References:

1. Jones KH, Jones PA, Middleton RM, et al. Physical disability, anxiety and depression in people with MS: an Internet-based survey via the UK MS Register. PLoS One.2014;9:e104604.