The emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with progressive multiple sclerosis

J Neurol. 2021 May;268(5):1598-1607. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-10160-7. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


Objective: Individuals with pre-existing chronic illness have shown increased anxiety and depression due to COVID-19. Here, we examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on emotional symptomatology and quality of life in individuals with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PMS).

Methods: Data were obtained during a randomized clinical trial on rehabilitation taking place at 11 centers in North America and Europe. Participants included 131 individuals with PMS. Study procedures were interrupted in accordance with governmental restrictions as COVID-19 spread. During study closure, a COVID Impact Survey was administered via telephone or email to all participants, along with measures of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, quality of life, and MS symptomatology that were previously administered pre-pandemic.

Results: 4% of respondents reported COVID-19 infection. No significant changes were noted in anxiety, quality of life, or the impact of MS symptomatology on daily life from baseline to lockdown. While total HADS-depression scores increased significantly at follow-up, this did not translate into more participants scoring above the HADS threshold for clinically significant depression. No significant relationships were noted between disease duration, processing speed ability or EDSS, and changes in symptoms of depression or anxiety. Most participants reported the impact of the virus on their psychological well-being, with a little impact on financial well-being. The perceived impact of the pandemic on physical and psychological well-being was correlated with the impact of MS symptomatology on daily life, as well as changes in depression.

Conclusions: Overall, little change was noted in symptoms of depression or anxiety or overall quality of life.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Depression; Progressive multiple sclerosis; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Emotions*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Pandemics*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires