Major stressful life events in adulthood and risk of multiple sclerosis


Research into MS and quality of life

The possible role of psychological stress in the aetiology and progression of MS has been debated for decades. It has been suggested that major stressful life events may somehow cause damage to the CNS or provoke dysfunction of the immune system, which could lead to the development of MS.

It has also been hypothesised that stress may induce a disruption of the blood–brain barrier, resulting in T cell entry into the CNS and development of MS.

This study looked at the association between major stressful life events and the development of MS using death of a child or a spouse or marital dissolution as indicators of severe stress to test these theories.

Two cohorts were created based on all Danish men and women born between 1950 and 1992. One cohort was made up of all persons who became parents between 1986 and 2010 and a second cohort was made up of all persons who married between 1968 and 2010.
Both cohorts were followed for MS between 1982 and 2010. They then looked at the association between major stressful life events and the risk of MS.

The results showed that bereaved parents experienced no unusual risk of MS compared to parents who did not lose a child. Divorced or widowed people were not at an increased risk of MS compared with married people of the same sex. Therefore this study does not provide an association between major stressful life events and subsequent MS risk.

Authors: Nielsen NM, Bager P
Source: J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2014 Mar 7. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2013-307181. [Epub ahead of print]
Read the abstract.



 

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