Long-Term Study Discovers Multiple Sclerosis Cuts Life Expectancy By 7 Years

APRIL 20, 2017
Jared Kaltwasser
A new long-term Norwegian study determined that the life expectancy for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is approximately 7 years shorter than the life expectancy for the general population.
 
Patients with MS also had a mortality rate almost 3 times higher than the general population, according to the study, though survival rates appeared to increase over the course of the 6-decade research period.
 
The study is based on patient data from a single county in western Norway between the years 1953 and 2012. Researchers used records from Haukeland University Hospital, and matched that data against a federal cause of death registry. A total of 1388 patients were diagnosed with MS in the county during that time frame. The majority – 855 – were women. A total of 291 patients with MS died during the course of the study. Of those, 56.4% died from MS.
 
The overall life expectancy for MS patients in the study was 74.7 years. Women with MS lived to an average of 77.2 years; men lived to 72.2 on average. Among the general population in the study, the average life expectancy was 81.8 years.
 
The findings in the study were in line with similar recent studies in Canada and Spain that found life expectancy for people with MS was 6 or 6.5 years shorter than the general population. As in the other studies, the Norwegian researchers found that patients who were diagnosed at a younger age had a higher risk of death from the disease. As for the gender gap in life expectancy for MS patients, the authors noted that a similar gap exists within the general population.
 
While some studies have suggested that women with primary progressive MS face higher mortality rates, the authors said it’s difficult to draw gender-based conclusions from their study.
 
“With regards to investigating gender differences in mortality, added insight into the impact of gender-linked disparities in cardiovascular and lifestyle risk factors as well as treatment strategies and biological disease mechanisms would be warranted,” wrote the authors, led by Hanne-Marie Boe Lunde, MD (pictured), of Haukeland University Hospital.
 
However, one of the most striking results from the study was simply how things have changed over the 60 years. The mortality gap between MS patients and the general population shrank steadily.
 
In fact, for the final 15 years of the study, the standardized mortality rate between MS and non-MS patients was identical. However, the authors cautioned against taking that number at face value, since the MS patients included in that data were mostly still young adults.
 
One other takeaway from the study is the value of comprehensive patient databases. While the study’s authors benefitted from hospital data and a public cause of death registry, they said more insights would be possible if more countries did a better job of tracking such data. They said that’s particularly important as more and more patients begin taking new disease-modifying MS drugs.
 
“However, to estimate future trends in life expectancy more accurately, it is crucial to facilitate and take advantage of MS registries with detailed information on the use of disease modifying treatment as well as comorbidities and lifestyle factors,” the authors wrote.
 
The study, titled “Survival and cause of death in multiple sclerosis: a 60-year longitudinal population study,” was published April 1 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychology.
 
Related Coverage:
 
Obesity, High Cholesterol Linked to Multiple Sclerosis Progression
 
European Advocates Call for Greater Real World Evidence Collaboration in MS
 
Drug May Slow Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis


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