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    A person with MS and depression may be at an increased risk of death

    By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 10, 2023

    Depression and multiple sclerosis (MS) are debilitating conditions that individually pose risks to individuals. However, a recent study published in the medical journal ‘Neurology’ points to a concerning revelation – individuals with both depression and MS may have an elevated likelihood of death in the coming decade compared to those with just one or neither condition.

    Unveiling the Study Findings

    Beyond the increased risk of mortality, the study also uncovered a higher probability of developing vascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, among individuals with both MS and depression.

    Raffaele Palladino, MD, PhD, from the Imperial College of London, highlights the significance of these findings, stating, “These findings underscore the importance of identifying depression in people with MS, as well as monitoring other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.” Palladino emphasizes the need for future studies to examine whether the treatment of depression in individuals with MS could potentially reduce the risk of developing vascular diseases and increase longevity.

    The study encompassed 12,251 individuals with MS and 72,572 without the condition. Researchers scrutinized medical records over a ten-year period to determine the occurrence of vascular diseases and mortality rates.

    At the study’s onset, it was revealed that 21 percent of individuals with MS had depression, while only 9 percent of those without MS experienced the same. The results indicated that people with both MS and depression had a mortality rate of 10.3 cases per 100,000 person-years. Person-years considers both the number of participants in the study and the duration of their involvement.

    Elevated Mortality Rates for Individuals with MS and Depression

    Comparatively, the mortality rates for those with MS without depression stood at 10.6, while individuals with depression but without MS had a rate of 3.6. Those with neither MS nor depression had a mortality rate of 2.5. After adjusting for factors such as smoking and diabetes, the research revealed that individuals with both conditions were over five times more likely to die within the next decade when compared to individuals without either condition.

    Moreover, the mortality risk for those with MS alone was nearly four times higher than those without either condition. Individuals with depression alone were almost twice as likely to die, emphasizing the significant impact of both MS and depression on mortality rates.

    Regarding the risk of vascular diseases, the study found a rate of 2.4 cases per 100,000 person-years for individuals with both MS and depression, 1.2 for those with MS alone, 1.3 for those with depression alone, and 0.7 for those with neither condition. After accounting for other factors, researchers discovered that individuals with both MS and depression were over three times more likely to develop vascular diseases than those without either condition.

    Palladino notes, “When we looked at the risk of death, we found that the joint effect of MS plus depression was more significant than the effect of each individual factor alone. In other words, the two conditions had a synergistic effect.” Palladino further explains that approximately 14 percent of the increased mortality rate could be attributed to the interaction between MS and depression.

    One limitation of the study was the lack of information on risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), which could influence the risk of vascular disease and mortality.


    This study sheds light on the potential grave consequences of living with both multiple sclerosis and depression. Not only does this combination increase the likelihood of mortality over time, but it also amplifies the risk of developing vascular diseases. The findings underscore the importance of recognizing and addressing depression in individuals with MS, as well as monitoring associated risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

    Moving forward, further research should explore the efficacy of depression treatment in reducing the risk of vascular diseases and improving the overall lifespan of individuals with MS. By gaining a deeper understanding of these complex interactions, healthcare professionals can enhance interventions and support systems, ultimately improving the well-being and longevity of those living with multiple sclerosis and depression.

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