While multiple sclerosis is most typically associated with progressively declining physical ability, multiple sclerosis patients are often times affected by a number of physical and mental health comorbidities in addition to their worsening physical ability. This observation was highlighted by a group of researchers in Scotland led by Drs. Robert J. Simpson and Stewart W. Mercer of the University of Glasgow.
To establish the finding that “Physical and Mental Health Comorbidity is Common in People with Multiple Sclerosis,” the team analyzed data supplied by a nationally representative Scottish Primary Care dataset from the Primary Care Clinical Informatics Unit. Over three thousand multiple sclerosis patients and over one million controls over the age of 25 were evaluated for 39 different comorbidities. Eight comorbidities were related to mental health, and 31 were related to physical health. Age, gender, and socioeconomic status were also analyzed. Findings were published in the journal BMC Neurology.
As is the case for multiple sclerosis patients living in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Taiwan, multiple sclerosis patients living in Scotland seem to have higher rates of comorbidities. The odds of having at least one comorbidity were more than two times as great for multiple sclerosis patients than for controls. The odds ratios for two, three, or four or more, while not as great, were also significant: 1.49, 1.86, and 1.61, respectively. Most commonly, patients were afflicted with neurological and gastrointestinal conditions.
In terms of purely mental health comorbidities such as anxiety and depression, multiple sclerosis patients were again more susceptible. The odds ratio was 2.94 and increased with an increasing number of physical comorbidities.
Interestingly, multiple sclerosis patients were significantly less affected by cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, coronary heart disease, and hypertension. This finding contrasts the findings of some other research groups, and the team believes it requires further investigation.
This study is impactful because it reiterates the fact that multiple sclerosis patients often have a lower health related quality of life and require greater utilization of healthcare services. Not only is this troublesome for patients themselves, but also it is burdensome to caregivers and the healthcare system. Probing further into the reason for a higher rate of comorbidities could alleviate some of the troubles of multiple sclerosis patients. Some studies suggest yoga may improve quality of life for patients, and it is inevitable a number of other interventions can do the same.