With Age, Depression Lessens and Quality of Life Improves in MS Patients, Researchers Report

With Age, Depression Lessens and Quality of Life Improves in MS Patients, Researchers Report

A recent study found that elder individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience significantly less severe depressive symptoms and better quality of life than their younger counterparts.

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.

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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.

This research was funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, an organization supporting people living with MS, and the biotechnology company Biogen.


  1. jojo says:

    We are depressed because we have a depressing disease. It is easier as you get older because those who are elderly don’t walk as well either. To the MS society, put the money into repairing myelin and cause, then we won’t be depressed. Cure the disease!

  2. Libbie Frank says:

    Really…based on 57 patients? Not worth reporting as far as I’m concerned.
    As said in the article: “The team suggested additional research is needed in larger populations to confirm the results and to clarify the reasons for this outcome.”

  3. CP says:

    Didn’t turn out to be the case for me, and doubtless others, I’m sure. Although I don’t experience depression as meloncholy…just a perpertual state of anger. MS robbed me of everything that mattered in my life and there was no upside, no matter how hard I tried to bend my reality into “See the silver lining.”

    • Cynthia King says:

      Age is a great equalizer. The body starts to fail, and now all my weekend warrior friends need new hips and knees so they limp as much as me. But it still stinks because I have these growing old complaints in addition to ms. Maybe the stress is less for a while because the kids are gone so you aren’t planning your life around theirs, but the financial impact is greater because if you have had to leave the workforce earlier than most you missed out on the time when your maximum earning potential was at its highest and you don’t have that nest egg for retirement. Life always had its ups and downs. Having ms was like being attached to a rubber band that snapped and stretched without notice. I have been treated for depression most of my ms years. There’s just always something to be depressed about no matter how old you are you when you have ms.

  4. Dale Degraffenreid says:

    My daughter who has PPMS is very depressed and she is 62. Her pain is extremely high and doesn’t seem to get any results from the medical profession. Seems more agressive research should be in the works.

  5. John M Evans says:

    Less depression, better quality of life? Maybe for a fortunate minority.
    This “study” was just another poorly designed exercise in wasting paper.
    Please MS news today, give us better quality information and less phony hope-building.

  6. Doug C. says:

    I am 62 and was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago. I am fortunate that I have not lost any more physical ability than I have and I appreciate that. Stress and anxiety are still a debilitating part of my day. I see that continuing.

  7. Deb Whitmore says:

    I am 59 was a very sensitive child and watched an heard everything, nothing was explained or taught, lived with fear, lonelyness, an a need for answers for all I did not understand. As the years passed I aquired many symtoms and illnesses, I’ll have to finish later.

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