Multiple Sclerosis and the Risk of Early Death


MS comorbidities increase the risk of early mortality.

MS comorbidities increase the risk of early mortality.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients may have an increased risk of dying early compared with non-MS patients, according to findings published in Neurology.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba compared the mortality rates of nearly 6,000 adults with MS to almost 30,000 patients without in order to evaluate the association of comorbidity with survival in both populations. The control subjects were matched for sex, year of birth, and region and then the researchers compared causes of deaths between the populations.

“Despite studies that show MS survival may be improving over time, the more than 2.5 million people affected worldwide by this disabling disease still face a risk of dying earlier, specifically those who are diagnosed younger,” study author Ruth Ann Marrie, MD, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, explained in a press release.

On average, MS patients lived about 76 years, while non MS adults lived for about 83 years. The MS patients experienced a two-fold increased risk of death compared to the non-MS adult population, the researchers found.

Less than half of the MS population (44%) died from MS and related complications of the disease, the data demonstrated, such as nervous system disease and circulatory disease. The most common causes of death following those were cancer and respiratory disease.

“Treating other conditions better may be a way of improving survival,” Marrie concluded.

There were also comorbidities that were associated with increased risk of death in both populations, such as diabetes, ischemic heart disease, depression, anxiety, and chronic lung disease. The risk for the MS population was lower compared to the matched population in cases of chronic lung disease, diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease.

“In the MS population, survival remained shorter than expected,” the authors concluded. “Within the MS population, comorbidity was associated with increased mortality risk. However, comorbidity did not preferentially increase mortality risk in the MS population as compared with controls.”

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