Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Multiple Sclerosis Prevalence

Neurology. 2022 May 3;98(18):e1818-e1827. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200151.


Background and objectives: The goal of this work was to determine whether the prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) varies by race and ethnicity.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of >2.6 million adults from the multiethnic, community-dwelling members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California. The complete electronic health records of individuals with at least 1 ICD-9 code for MS between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2010 were reviewed. MS prevalence and 95% CIs stratified by age, sex, and race and ethnicity among 2010 members were estimated with binomial regression. Age- and sex-standardized prevalence was estimated according to the 2010 US Census population.

Results: We identified 3,863 patients with MS. The average age of patients with prevalent MS was 51.7 years (SD 13.1 years), and 76.8% were women. The female preponderance was more pronounced among Black (81.2%) and Asian (83.6%) than White (76.3%) or Hispanic (74.5%) individuals with MS. Age- and sex-standardized MS prevalence per 100,000 was similarly high among Black (225.8, 95% CI 207.1-244.5) and White (237.7, 95% CI 228.2-247.2) and significantly lower among Hispanic (69.9, 95% CI 64.4-75.5) and Asian (22.6, 95% CI 17.1-28.1) persons. MS prevalence was highest between the ages of 35 and 64 years and declined after 65 years of age across all racial and ethnic groups. Among adults 18 to 24 years of age, the crude MS prevalence was low but was highest among Black and Hispanic young adults, lower in White people, and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander individuals (48.5, 25.0, 18.0, and 7.1 per 100,000, respectively).

Discussion: MS prevalence varies by race and ethnicity, being similarly high in White and Black and significantly lower in Hispanic and Asian persons in Southern California. Taken together with previous studies, these findings indicate that the burden of MS in the US Black community has long been underrecognized. More studies are needed to determine whether MS is an emerging disease among US Hispanic adults and whether MS susceptibility and prevalence vary among Hispanic or Asian individuals from different cultures or ancestral backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult