Low income and education levels are linked to a higher risk of physical disability and disease progression in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), study says.
The study with that finding, “Socioeconomic status and disability progression in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Neurology.
“This study is the first of its kind,” Helen Tremlett, PhD, the study’s senior author, said in a press release. Tremlett is a professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canada Research Chair in neuroepidemiology and MS.
“Previous studies have looked at the relationship between socioeconomic status and risk of developing MS. Here, we were able to show a relationship between socioeconomic status and subsequent risk of disability progression,” Tremlett said.
MS is a progressive, neurodegenerative, autoimmune disease characterized by different types and degrees of physical disabilities. The impact of patients’ socioeconomic status on MS progression and physical disability is controversial. “These discrepancies might relate to variability between study designs, especially when adjusting for lifestyle factors, which can change over time,” the researchers wrote.
In the study, a team of scientists from UBC, Canada, together with collaborators from Wales, U.K., set out to assess whether the socioeconomic status and education level of MS patients were linked to disease progression and physical disabilities.
To this end, researchers gathered health, economic, and education data from two different groups of MS patients stored on census records, and on two MS online databases. The study included a total of 3,113 MS patients — 2,069 from British Columbia (Canada), and 1,044 from Southeast Wales (U.K.).
The patients’ socioeconomic status was evaluated before MS onset, to eliminate any potential confounding factors, and was based on neighborhood-level average income. Physical disability was evaluated using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS, the higher the score, the worse the patient’s disability).
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