Research Opportunity: Tell Us How MS Affects Your Life

If you have MS, you don't need anyone to tell you MS can have a big impact in many areas of your life. Studies typically focus on occurrence of MS symptoms, work status, and functional disabilities. MS can also affect important social relationships. An interesting study published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation investigated the social impact of MS. In this study, 305 people with MS were evaluated.  Here were the results:

  • People often reported withdrawing from social activities and having a small circle of friends after their MS diagnosis.
  • Rates for separation or divorce since being diagnosed with MS were not higher than among the general population. While some people felt MS led to a separation, others noted their relationship became stronger because of working together to cope with MS.
  • MS often led to premature retirement.

This study provides important insights into the potentially far-reaching effects of living with MS.

Why are relationships important?

Humans are social creatures and the success of social media like Facebook and Twitter is testimony to people's desire to get and stay connected with others. Research shows that making and maintaining strong social connections is also important for good health. Researchers call this social capital–meaning a strong, supportive network of family and friends is like money in the bank. Studies also show that having strong relationships and good social capital reduces the negative effects that stresses can have on our health.

What are the effects of relationship conflicts?

Animal studies show that social conflict produces important changes in neuroendocrine and immune function that may aggravate diseases like MS by promoting inflammation. In humans with MS, stressful events have been linked with increased risk for symptom exacerbation and relapse. In one study reported in the journal European Psychiatry, stressful events and relapses were recorded in 26 women with MS over one year. Stressful events included relationship issues, work/financial, and living situation. In 90 percent of relapses, a stressful event had been reported during the previous 4 weeks. After experiencing a stressful event, including conflicts with spouse/partner, family, or friends, 20 percent of people had a relapse within the next month. Risk of relapse increased as the number of stressful events increased.

Help us learn more about how MS affects you

We at the University of Pittsburgh/UPMC want to learn more about how multiple sclerosis impacts you. By spending a few minutes on our research survey, you will help us learn more information about MS that can benefit people with MS and healthcare professionals.

This survey is completely anonymous. Your responses cannot be matched to any personal information or identifiers. The survey consists of up to 69 multiple-choice questions and should take approximately 25 minutes to complete.  Thank you for your participation!

Take the Survey

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

How well do people around you understand MS?