High frequency of adverse health behaviors in multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2009 Jan;15(1):105-13. doi: 10.1177/1352458508096680. Epub 2008 Oct 9.


Background: Health behaviors influence chronic disease risks in the general population, and may influence health outcomes independently of comorbid diseases. Health behaviors receive less attention in multiple sclerosis (MS) than in the general population. We assessed health behaviors among participants in the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) Registry and the demographic characteristics associated with particular health behaviors.

Methods: In October 2006, we surveyed NARCOMS participants regarding smoking using questions from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey; physical activity using questions from the PEPI study, alcohol use using the AUDIT-C; and height and weight. To determine the independent demographic predictors of health behaviors, we used multivariable logistic regression, either binary or polytomous as appropriate.

Results: Of 8983 responders, 4867 (54.2%) ever smoked; 1542 (17.3%) currently smoked. On the basis of the AUDIT-C, 1632 (18.2%) were at risk for alcohol abuse or dependence. A quarter of participants were obese (n = 2269), and 2780 (31.3%) were overweight. Fewer than 25% of participants reported moderate or heavy leisure-time physical activity. Generally, lower socioeconomic status was associated with a higher frequency of adverse health behaviors accounting for other demographic factors. With increasing levels of disability, the reported intensity of physical activity was lower, and the frequency of overweight or obesity was higher.

Conclusions: Patients with MS exhibit frequent adverse health behaviors, increasing the risk of other chronic diseases. Further research is needed to determine how these behaviors influence disability progression, quality of life, and other MS-related outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors