New study reveals pandemic-specific depression and anxiety among individuals with multiple sclerosis

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Kessler Foundation researchers published results of a survey of the emotional outcomes of individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparison of data collected during the pandemic with pre-pandemic data for the study sample suggests the occurrence of pandemic-specific depression and anxiety. Their article, “Surviving a global pandemic: The experience of depression, anxiety, and loneliness among individuals with multiple sclerosis,” was published online in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders on January 14, 2022. The authors are Lauren Strober, Ph.D., Erica Weber, Ph.D., Anthony Lequerica, Ph.D., and Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., of Kessler Foundation.

The social restrictions mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic have heightened concerns about exacerbations of pre-existing mental health issues and loneliness among vulnerable populations, such as MS To assess the impact of the pandemic on the MS population, researchers surveyed 142 individuals who had previously reported their emotional experiences in a national online survey. Comparisons showed increases in depression, anxiety, and loneliness during the pandemic, with 54% reporting ‘new’ depression, and 33%, ‘new’ anxiety. Increases in loneliness affected all people with depression and anxiety, whether symptoms were new or pre-existing.

The research team sought to differentiate individuals with new symptoms from those with pre-pandemic symptoms and no prior reported symptoms. “We found that ‘new’ depression and anxiety appeared to be related specifically to the pandemic,” reported lead author Lauren Strober, Ph.D., senior research scientist in the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience at Kessler Foundation. “Also, we saw no association with the person-specific factors commonly associated with depression and anxiety in individuals with MS, namely, personality and self-efficacy.”

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