Depression, Psychological Distress Symptoms Significantly Affect MS Patients’ Quality of Life, Study Finds

Depression, Psychological Distress Symptoms Significantly Affect MS Patients’ Quality of Life, Study Finds

Depression and psychological distress symptoms can have a huge effect on the way multiple sclerosis (MS) patients view their well-being, a new study has found.

Since depression and psychological distress symptoms can be targeted therapeutically, the study proposes focusing on mental health disorders in MS patients to considerably improve their quality of life.

The research article, “Determinants of quality of life in relapsing-remitting and progressive multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

MS can have a severe impact on patients’ quality of life, affecting their ability to participate in everyday routines. Patients who experience more physical disability usually report poorer quality of life. Quality of life also is negatively influenced by fatigue — the more physically exhausted the patient, the more quality of life diminishes.

Quality of life also has been shown to decrease with cognition impairment in MS patients, and has been associated with the patient’s level of cognitive reserve — the mind’s resistance to damage to the brain, and the ability to optimize or maximize the brain’s performance.

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The co-occurrence of psychopathological disorders like depression exerts a negative influence on patients’ quality of life, too.

Understanding the different factors that affect patients’ quality of life is vital to improve MS treatment management. Plus, whether these factors differ across the different types of MS, including relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and secondary progressive MS (SPMS), has not been thoroughly explored.

Now, researchers from the University Hospital Frankfurt, Germany, investigated further how these different factors affect MS patients’ quality of life. Specifically, the team looked at the effects of physical impairment, upper extremity function, cognitive impairment, cognitive reserve, depression, psychological distress symptoms, fatigue, as well as age and disease duration, on patient-reported measures of quality of life.

In total, 55 MS patients were analyzed — 39 RRMS and 16 progressive MS.

Results showed that MS patients with a university degree, RRMS instead of a progressive disease course, lower levels of depression and psychological distress symptoms, shorter disease duration, and reduced disease severity, had a significantly better quality of life.

No link was found between measures of quality of life and physical disability, or upper extremity disability, or cognitive impairment.

Although fatigue is known to be a major factor affecting patients’ subjective well-being, the researchers did not find an effect of fatigue on quality of life in MS patients.

Overall, the findings are in line with individual studies focusing on these factors separately.

The researchers noted that among these factors, depression and psychological distress symptoms can be treated. “Since they can be targeted by both psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment, focusing on mental comorbidity could substantially increase quality of life in MS,” the researchers wrote.

This is important because psychopathological disorders, although often co-occurring with MS, remain undiagnosed or undertreated. Furthermore, MS patients view their mental health disorders equally as important as their physical health, and frequently report a need for mental healthcare.

“The current results highlight the urgent need for early and effective symptomatic treatment of mental comorbidity” in MS patients, the research team concluded.


  1. Deborah Landau says:

    Ditch the anti-depressants and find some canna butter-I did after 14 yrs and have had a tremendous change in how I feel and view life-MS society disagrees but, they don’t have MS

  2. Robin English says:

    I’ve had Ms for 20+ years and just recently it has gotten the worse it’s ever been before. My sister died and it’s like a fire started within. Loss of a loved one was the spark that lite that fire. Copaxone for 18 years no longer was working.WHAT now?

  3. Terry Bullard says:

    I can not believe how long it takes scientists to figure out the obvious. MS took away my ability to hike through the woods or even go for walks outside AT ALL — two things that helped to keep me sane and enjoy life. It also took away my ability to reach orgasm. As a woman it seems that is less important than it is to men – but you would be WRONG — very wrong. Because of MS I look and feel 20 years older than I am and there is nothing I can do about it. I have a master degree. I have until now been an avid exerciser. Even with MS I have worked hard to maintain fitness. For 25 years I kept working to overcome it or at least keep things from getting worse. MS is like living with a poltergeist. I am angry, depressed and weary.

    • jevousaime4ever says:

      I foud it harder and harder to go to the gym. Swimming used to be a saviour. I rarely go to the gym. Parking is almost impossible; they have a new lane for bicycles which makes it difficult to reach the sidewalk. I used to handg on to my car to maneuvour my way. I still pay for the gym hoping, i will be forced to go. I am always so tired and taking care of myself takes all the energy I have.

  4. Dan Pottman says:

    I am a 59 year old nobody. I sit and cry when I was actually held in high regard at any work I have done. Building for Governors and Senatos, doctors etc.. Now I look back and cry.
    I was a somebody once!!
    I am beyond depressed and it is destroying every fiber in my puny body.

    • Karen Junqueira says:

      Dear Dan
      I understand so completely how you feel. I also was a somebody once…
      Please consider taking an anti-depressant, if you haven’t already. I take 100mg Exsira every morning and it does help.
      Hang in there.

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