Stressful life events precede exacerbations of multiple sclerosis

Psychosom Med. Nov-Dec 2002;64(6):916-20. doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000038941.33335.40.

Abstract

Objective: We longitudinally monitored life events and health changes in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) to determine whether stressful events may trigger exacerbation of MS.

Methods: Twenty-three women with MS were followed for 1 year. Each subject completed the Psychiatric Epidemiologic Research Interview on a weekly basis. Further information on potentially stressful events was acquired using the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule. Neurologic symptoms were also monitored on a weekly basis throughout the year. Potential MS exacerbations were confirmed by a neurologist who was blind to the presence and timing of stressors.

Results: Eighty-five percent of MS exacerbations were associated with stressful life events in the preceding 6 weeks. Stressful life events occurred an average of 14 days before MS exacerbations, compared with 33 days before a randomly selected control date (p < .0001). Survival analysis confirmed that an increase in frequency of life events was associated with greater likelihood of MS exacerbations (hazard ratio = 13.18, p < .05).

Conclusions: These results are consistent with the hypothesis that stress is a potential trigger of disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors