Social, societal, and economic burden of mal de debarquement syndrome

J Neurol. 2012 Jul;259(7):1326-30. doi: 10.1007/s00415-011-6349-6. Epub 2012 Jan 10.


Mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS) is a disorder of phantom perception of self-motion of unknown cause. The purpose of this work was to describe the quality of life (QOL) of patients with MdDS and to estimate the economic costs associated with this disorder. A modified version of a QOL survey used for another neurological disease (multiple sclerosis; MSQOL-54) was used to assess the impact of MdDS on QOL in 101 patients. The estimated economic costs were based on self-reported direct and indirect costs of individuals living in the United States using Medicare reimbursement payment rates for 2011 in 79 patients. Patients with MdDS reported a poor overall QOL as indicated by a mean composite QOL score of 59.26 ± 1.89 (out of 100). The subcategories having the lowest QOL rating were role limitations due to physical problems (18.32 ± 3.20), energy (34.24 ± 1.47), and emotional problems (36.30 ± 4.00). The overall physical health composite score including balance was 49.40 ± 1.69, and the overall mental health composite score was 52.40 ± 1.83. The cost to obtain a diagnosis was $2,997 ± 337, which included requiring an average of 19 physician visits per patient. The direct cost of MdDS medical care was $826 ± 140 per patient per year, which mainly included diagnostic imaging and physician visits. The indirect costs (i.e., lost wages) were $9,781 ± 2,347 per patient per year. Among 65 patients who were gainfully employed when they acquired MdDS, the indirect costs were $11,888 ± 2,786 per patient per year. Thus, the total annual cost of the disorder ranged from $11,493 ± 2,341 to $13,561 ± 2,778 per patient per year depending on employment status prior to developing MdDS. MdDS negatively and dramatically impacts QOL, and also imposes a substantial economic burden on MdDS patients. These findings underscore the need for further basic and clinical research on MdDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / etiology
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Sickness / complications
  • Motion Sickness / economics*
  • Motion Sickness / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Travel
  • Travel-Related Illness

Supplementary concepts

  • Mal de debarquement