MS Patients Who Interact With Health Information More Likely to Adopt Healthy Lifestyle

Joana Carvalho, PhD avatar

by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who interact with different sources of health information are more likely to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviors, a study has found.

A combination of in-person interactive educational workshops and practical tools to implement these concepts in daily life may be the best strategy to promote the adoption of these habits among MS patients, according to the study authors.

The study, “Greater Engagement with Health Information Is Associated with Adoption and Maintenance of Healthy Lifestyle Behaviours in People with MS,” was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

In patients with MS or other chronic conditions, face-to-face interventions both at the group and individual levels have been used for a long time to convey information and promote the adoption of healthy behaviors.

“Online health information is regarded as a convenient and low-cost complementary resource for symptom management and behavior changes,” investigators wrote.

The group of investigators from the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania now proposes that those with MS who interact with health information via online, individual, and group interventions, are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors.

In their study, researchers analyzed data from surveys gathered from a group of 952 MS patients over the course of five years.

Surveys were designed to gauge patients’ level of engagement with three different sources of health information: number of visits to the website of the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis” initiative; familiarity with the initiative’s book; and participation in its live-in workshops.

Those who did not interact with any of the three sources of health information were considered “non-engagers.” Those who interacted with at least one of these sources were considered engagers, and they were subdivided into two groups: medium engagers, meaning those who visited the website and/or read the book; and high engagers, meaning those who met medium engagers’ criteria and also participated in live-in workshop sessions.

Surveys also were used to gather information on patients’ lifestyle health habits, including the use of omega 3 and vitamin D supplements, sun exposure, and the consumption of meat and dairy products.

Analyses showed that those who were considered engagers tended to have higher levels of education, and were less likely to have severe disability, experience significant fatigue, and to be overweight or obese.

Statistical analyses also revealed that over the course of five years, patients falling in the medium and high engager categories were 1.7-times more likely to consume omega 3 supplements, and 2.16-times more likely to engage in frequent physical activity, compared to non-engagers.

During the same period of time, engagers also were found to be nearly four-times less likely to consume dairy products, compared to non-engagers.

Additional statistical analyses found that patients’ level of engagement with different sources of health information at the start of the study was directly associated with their ability to maintain healthy habits over the course of five years. These habits included the use of omega 3 and vitamin D supplements, and the elimination of dairy products from their diet.

Overall, the “findings suggest that engagement with reading resources combined with face-to-face interactive educational workshops that demonstrate implementation of behaviours in daily life may be optimal for long-term adoption and maintenance of dietary behavioural change in people with MS,” researchers wrote.

“This may assist to develop and implement health information resources for self-management through lifestyle modifications,” they added.