The research, “Subjective well-being differs with age in multiple sclerosis: A brief report,” was published in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology.
In the general population, the sense of well-being improves as people get older, according to the researchers. But this correlation was never confirmed among MS patients, with different studies reporting conflicting results. So, the question remained, “Does well-being improve in elder MS patients?”
To answer that question, researchers at the Kessler Foundation, a nonprofit organization advocating for people with disabilities, and New York University, investigated differences in depressive symptoms and quality of life among distinct age groups of MS patients.
A total of 57 MS patients were divided into three age groups: 35-44, 45-54, and 55-65 years old.
Depression was measured using the validated Chicago Multiscale Depression Inventory (CMDI), a self-reporting depression scale that includes mood, evaluative (self-criticism) and vegetative (physical malfunctioning) aspects. Quality of life was assessed via the MS Quality of Life Instrument (MSQOL-54) that combines both generic and MS-specific items regarding patients’ physical and emotional status.
Results were compared among groups and normalized to disease duration, so that this variable would not affect the results.
The analysis of the data showed that individuals in the oldest group reported significantly lower levels of depression and higher quality of life than the youngest group.
According to the team, these preliminary findings are consistent with observations of improved subjective well-being with age in the general population, although it was not expected for MS patients.
“These results were unexpected given the functional limitations, disease progression and neurological lesions seen in the aging MS population,” Lauren Strober, PhD, co-author of the study and senior research scientist at Kessler Foundation, said in a press release. “Contrary to our hypothesis, the trend by age paralleled that of the general population.”
Based on these results, the team noted that younger MS patients may be at higher risk for depression and poor quality of life, suggesting age-specific assessments and interventions to promote well-being among this group.
“These findings suggest that younger individuals with MS are at greater risk for depression and poor quality of life,” Strober said. “If this trend is confirmed in future studies, targeted screening for depression by age may be warranted in this population.”
The team suggested additional research is needed in larger populations to confirm the results and to clarify the reasons for this outcome.