Diet, Physical Activity, and Stress Among Wheelchair Users With Multiple Sclerosis: Examining Individual and Co-Occurring Behavioral Risk Factors

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2023 Jan 14;S0003-9993(23)00034-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2022.12.194. Online ahead of print.


Objective: This study examined individual and co-occurring behavioral risk factors (diet, exercise, and stress) in wheelchair users with multiple sclerosis (MS) and potential association with MS symptoms (ie, fatigue, depression, anxiety, pain, sleep, and health-related quality of life [HRQOL]).

Design: Survey.

Setting: General Community.

Participants: One hundred twenty-three wheelchair users with MS completed this study (N=123).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Participants were mailed instructions for accessing online questionnaires (demographic and clinical characteristics, Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire, Perceived Stress Scale, Automated Self-Administered 24-Hour Dietary Assessment Tool, and MS symptoms).

Results: Standard cut-points were used to categorize behavioral risk factors and then identify the extent and distribution of these behaviors both individually and co-occurring. We then analyzed the associations between behavioral risk factors and MS symptoms using bivariate correlation analyses and Mann-Whitney U tests. The mean age of participants was 60.6±10.0 years, 76% identified as women, 82% had a progressive disease course, and the mean MS duration was 23.0±9.7 years. Seven participants were classified as having 0 negative health behaviors, 41 participants had 1 negative health behavior, 49 participants had 2 negative health behaviors, and 26 participants had 3 negative health behaviors. The number of negative health behaviors was significantly correlated with HRQOL (physical, r=.30; psychological, r=.47), sleep (r=.25), depressive symptoms (r=.36), and anxiety (r=.43). Mann-Whitney U tests indicated greater fatigue, depression, and anxiety as well as lower sleep quality and HRQOL among participants who reported 2 or 3 behavioral risk factors compared with 0 or 1 behavioral risk factor.

Conclusions: Future research should examine the design and implementation of multiple health behavior change interventions targeting co-occurring behavioral risk factors among wheelchair users with MS.

Keywords: Health behaviors; Multiple sclerosis; Quality of life; Rehabilitation; Risk factors; Wheelchairs.