Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

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Emotional wellbeing of people with progressive multiple sclerosis almost two years into the coronavirus pandemic

  • MS Society Funded

A study led by Dr. Anthony Feinstein and team, found people living with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) became more depressed, reported more emotional distress, and rated their physical health more poorly almost two years into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an initial study, a group of researchers led by Dr. Anthony Feinstein examined the impact the first six months of pandemic had on people living with progressive MS and found that compared with pre-pandemic data, participants who focused on healthy lifestyle activities, such as physical and cognitive exercises coped well with the pandemic and that the lockdown did not have a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing and quality of life. Results from this study can be found here.

In this study, the research team followed-up with the same participants to understand the risk and prevalence of emotional distress in people living with progressive MS after approximately two years of recurrent and extended pandemic closures and restrictions. Data collection was the same across both studies using COVID-19 impact surveys and self-reported measures of depression, anxiety, and MS symptoms.

From this follow-up study, the researchers found that people with progressive MS had a more negative outlook on their mental and physical wellbeing and disease course eleven months after the initial study. An increase in depression was found to be clinically significant while anxiety remained the same. There was a correlation between people with MS indicating a decline in mental health and self-reported worsening of their physical health. Additionally, those with secondary progressive MS reported lower on their psychological wellbeing compared to those with primary progressive MS. Participants described increased feelings of isolation as well as worry of being infected with COVID-19, although no significant reductions of in-person and online social interactions were noted, compared to findings from the initial study. It is important to keep in mind however, that these results are based on subjective perceptions and lack confirmation from objective neurological assessments.

Overall, this study shows a delayed onset of emotional distress and decline in physical health in people living with progressive MS, which was not observed at an early point in the pandemic. The findings from this study emphasize the importance of enhancing the monitoring and treatment of mental health symptoms in addition to physical symptoms of people living with MS, as we emerge out of this period.

To read more about the initial findings from this study, click here.

For more information about the CogEx study, click here.

References:

Article published in Journal of Neurology – The late onset of emotional distress in people with progressive multiple sclerosis during Covid-19 pandemic: longitudinal findings from the CogEx study. Link to article – here.

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