Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
Resources
About MyMSTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
Resources
About MyMSTeam
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
NEWS

How Multiple Sclerosis Affects Life Expectancy: Study Results

Posted on July 19, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Simi Burn, PharmD

  • The National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are living longer than in the past but have a shorter life expectancy than that of the general population.
  • New findings from a study tracking a representative group of people confirm that the increased mortality risk is due not just to MS but also to other health conditions.
  • The new findings underscore the value of healthy lifestyle habits, which may help ward off other diseases and extend life for people living with MS.

If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, you have likely wondered how the condition affects your life expectancy. MS itself is not fatal, but it can lead to other health problems and complications that can be, such as pneumonia, infections, and falls.

However, there is good news: According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, life expectancy for people with MS has increased over time. Furthermore, results of a recently published study offer more insight into the association between MS and risk of mortality.

Some MyMSTeam members have shared their concerns about life expectancy. One member wrote, “Every time I fall or have a symptom, I now wonder how long I’ll live with this.”

Another member posted, “I used to say I will live to be 100. Now I say I hope I’ll live to be 100. Less positive, but so far, so good.”

Another member shared, “I was told a long time ago that MS isn’t a death sentence, but a life sentence. It’s important to keep moving and stay around positive people who lift your spirits.”

New Study Results on MS Life Expectancy

A new cohort study examined mortality in a representative sample of 23,053 U.S. adults aged 45 to 79 years. The participants had responded to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 2002 and 2008 and reported if a physician had diagnosed them with MS. The researchers then analyzed the participants’ death records from the survey date through Dec. 31, 2015.

All told, 120 of the survey participants reported being diagnosed with MS. The researchers found that people with the condition had an 80 percent increased risk of mortality during the study period compared with those who did not have MS.

Researchers also found that the average age of death for people with MS was around 64.3 to 66.1. For those without the condition, the average age was around 67.6. Participants with MS were more likely to have chronic respiratory disease (conditions affecting the airways and lungs), as well as lower physical-activity levels and body mass index (BMI).

Other factors can raise the risk of death, so researchers also tracked demographic and socioeconomic variables, lifestyle factors, comorbidities (other health conditions) — such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic respiratory disease — and cancer status. They found that even after adjusting for these factors, the increased risk of mortality associated with MS was significant.

Further studies are needed about life expectancy and MS, but these results are notable because they come from a large, representative sample of the NHIS, according to the study authors. These results provide more information for people living with MS, confirming earlier reports that the increased risk of mortality is due not only to MS but also related to other health conditions.

Past Findings on MS and Mortality

The link between MS and life expectancy is not fully understood. Past research has shown that people with MS tend to have shorter life spans than the general population. However, the exact difference in average length of life isn’t clear, nor are the reasons for these differences.

One study of more than 30,000 people with MS in the United States found that they live six fewer years, on average, than people who don’t have MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that the average life expectancy of people with MS is about seven years less than that of the general population.

Prior to the latest cohort study, researchers reported that the increased risk of mortality is due not to the neurological disease itself but, rather, to complications or other medical conditions. A 2020 study in the United Kingdom and a 2015 study in Canada found that MS is associated with a higher risk of mortality from all causes.

However, these studies did not take into account whether participants were treating their MS with disease-modifying therapies, which are approved to slow disease progression. More studies spanning larger populations and accounting for MS treatment are needed to determine how MS affects risk factors for life expectancy.

Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

Making lifestyle changes can help stem the progression of MS and extend life span, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. These include:

  • Eating nutritious foods
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Giving up cigarettes (if you smoke)

Taking steps like these can help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check, helping to manage or prevent comorbid conditions, and may lead to healthier, longer lives for people with MS.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 188,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.

Do you have questions about how MS will affect your life expectancy? Have you taken steps to lower your risk of other diseases? Share your story in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on the Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Simi Burn, PharmD is a seasoned pharmacist with experience in long-term care, geriatrics, community pharmacy, management, herbal medicine, and holistic health.. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved updated boosters for messenger RNA...

New COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters for Omicron: What To Know if You Have MS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved updated boosters for messenger RNA...
A person can develop multiple sclerosis (MS) at any age, but the condition is most often...

What Is the Average Age for a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis?

A person can develop multiple sclerosis (MS) at any age, but the condition is most often...
Poor circulation occurs when your body’s ability to distribute blood, oxygen, and nutrients is...

Can MS Affect Your Blood Circulation?

Poor circulation occurs when your body’s ability to distribute blood, oxygen, and nutrients is...
Everything you need to know about spine lesions and multiple sclerosis, including what causes them and how they cause MS. Click to learn more!

Multiple Sclerosis Spine Lesions: Your Guide

Everything you need to know about spine lesions and multiple sclerosis, including what causes them and how they cause MS. Click to learn more!
The John Cunningham (JC) virus is linked to the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is...

JC Virus, PML, and Multiple Sclerosis

The John Cunningham (JC) virus is linked to the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is...
According to the latest research, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be the leading cause of...

Does Epstein-Barr Influence the Course of MS?

According to the latest research, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be the leading cause of...

Recent articles

If you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), you are familiar with the common symptoms of the...

Why Does It Feel Like Something Is Stuck Between Your Toes?

If you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), you are familiar with the common symptoms of the...
When you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), symptoms and sensations can become a part of...

Unusual Sensations and MS: Causes and When to Worry

When you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), symptoms and sensations can become a part of...
Walking impairment is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Many people...

Managing MS Gait and Walking Difficulties

Walking impairment is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Many people...
Some people with MS experience involuntarily biting their tongue.

Why You May Accidentally Bite Your Tongue When Talking

Some people with MS experience involuntarily biting their tongue.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects everyone with the condition differently, causing a variety of...

Why Does Your Face Turn Red When You Poop?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects everyone with the condition differently, causing a variety of...
People who live with multiple sclerosis (MS) can experience a variety of symptoms, not all of...

Why Does One Side of Your Face Feel Hot and Sensitive?

People who live with multiple sclerosis (MS) can experience a variety of symptoms, not all of...
MS News
MS News

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close