A large international study of patients with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) has found that lockdowns during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have had minimal effect on their depression, anxiety, and quality of life, and has not significantly affected the symptomatology of MS on daily activities.

According to a Kessler Foundation press release, the findings surprised researchers, who performed a coronavirus impact survey during the suspension of a randomized clinical trial involving 131 participants at 11 sites in 6 countries.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the general population, including detrimental psychological and social effects, and has increased concerns for populations already at increased risk of infection. Infection with COVID-19 was reported by 4% of survey participants, according to a statement from lead author Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD.

By comparing baseline responses with the survey results, researchers found minimal changes in depression, anxiety, and quality of life for patients with progressive MS. They noted that the impact of MS symptomatology on daily life functions was mostly minimal, except in the small subset of patients with COVID-19 infection, for whom the impact was significant.

“Minimal effects were not what we expected to see,” Chiaravalloti said in a press release. “People with progressive MS appeared to have adapted more effectively to the lockdown conditions. Knowing their increased risk, they may have been early adopters of safety precautions, which may have provided a sense of control that countered negative emotional reactions. They are also accustomed to living with medical uncertainty and social isolation, 2 major factors that fueled high levels of psychological discomfort in the general population.”

Chiaravalloti added that the findings were consistent across continents and showed that the majority of participants actively engaged in mental and physical activities during lockdown.

“This is not surprising given that the aim of the [randomized clinical trial] was to measure the outcomes of such activities,” Chiaravalloti concluded. “Focusing on elements of a healthy lifestyle may have mediated the negative effects on wellbeing in this group with progressive MS.”

REFERENCE
COVID-19 Impact Survey Yields Unexpected Findings for Individuals with Progressive MS [news release]. Kessler Foundation; September 2, 2020. https://kesslerfoundation.org/press-release/covid-19-impact-survey-yields-unexpected-findings-individuals-progressive-ms. Accessed September 9, 2020.