#CMSC16 – MS Patients at Higher Risk for Loneliness, Study Shows

Patricia Inacio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inacio, PhD |

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Loneliness in MS patients

Researchers who looked at manifestations of loneliness found that the burden of loneliness is much higher in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients when compared to healthy people. The study, “Loneliness in Multiple Sclerosis: Putative Antecedents and Manifestations,” was recently presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) June 1-4 in National Harbor, Maryland.

MS and its associated complications can be considered as contributors for patients’ loneliness, but it hasn’t been thoroughly studied by the scientific community. Here, researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center, following Peplau and Perlman’s (1979) theory of loneliness, investigated the prevalence of loneliness in MS patients. The team also examined patients’ personal characteristics, disability, and functional limitations as antecedents for loneliness. Patients’ quality of life, as well as signs for depression, anxiety, and fatigue determined loneliness manifestations.

Sixty-three MS patients and 21 healthy controls completed self-report measures for the study. The self-reports included several parameters, such as demographics scale, UCLA Loneliness Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS), Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale-29 (MSIS-29), and the Late Life Functional and Disability Instrument (LL- FDDI).

Study results showed that MS patients had significantly higher UCLA Loneliness Scale scores when compared to healthy controls. Researchers also found a negative correlation between loneliness scores and upper-extremity function, social disability frequency, social disability limitations, and personal disability limitations. However, positive and significant correlations were detected between loneliness and anxiety, depression, cognitive fatigue, and psychosocial fatigue.

Loneliness was also found to be associated with both physical and psychological quality of life. Variations in loneliness scores were impacted by marital status and social disability frequency, accounting for 25 percent of total variations in the cohort analyzed.

In conclusion, the results suggested that MS patients experience higher burdens of loneliness compared to healthy individuals; and that several parameters, including marital and employment status, age, and functional and disability frequency and limitations constitute possible antecedents of loneliness in MS. The team also concluded that manifestations of loneliness in MS include anxiety, depression, fatigue, and reduced quality of life.