Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

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Understanding the emotional impact of COVID-19 on individuals with progressive MS

  • MS Society Funded

The global outbreak of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had enormous impact on the psychological and social health of the general population. Healthy individuals have reportedly experienced mental health symptoms, such as stress, helplessness, and fear of becoming ill and dying. The quarantine requirements also left people angry, confused, and anxious. This quickly raised concerns for individuals who were at greater risk of experiencing neuropsychiatric distress (e.g. people with pre-existing chronic illnesses or are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection).

Dr. Anthony Feinstein’s CogEx research team, which comprise of site investigators from Canada, United States, Italy, UK, Denmark and Belgium, examined the impact of the pandemic on people living with progressive MS by administering a COVID Impact Survey via e-mail or telephone from May to July 2020. Survey responses were then compared to pre-COVID data to determine the effects of the pandemic on the participants’ emotional well-being and overall quality of life.

Of the 131 participants with progressive MS, five reported COVID-19 infection. The majority of participants (70-90%) also indicated participating in some form of physical (aerobic exercise) and cognitive (reading, word games, jigsaw puzzles) activities while on lockdown. Interestingly, when compared to pre-COVID assessments, the participants reported very little changes to their depression and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. These results were consistent among all the study sites across six different countries.

The results indicate that people with progressive MS in this study coped well with the pandemic and that the lockdown did not seem to have a negative impact on their emotional well-being and quality of life. Focusing on healthy lifestyle activities, such as physical and cognitive exercises, may have helped these individuals adapt more effectively to the situation and mediated the negative effects of the pandemic on their well-being.

To view the published article, click here.

To read more about the findings of the study, click here.

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