Stress May Not Increase Risk of Developing MS

A recent study shows that stress may not necessarily increase a woman's risk of developing multiple sclerosis. .

While stress is a known aggressor of multiple sclerosis (MS) incidents, a recent study shows that it may not necessarily increase a woman’s risk of developing the disease.

Researchers studied two separate groups of women—all of whom were nurses—over an elongated period of time to measure the impact stress of daily life or a stressful childhood would have on developing MS. The research conducted was known as the Nurses' Health Study.

The first part of the Nurses' Health Study began in 1976 and researchers followed 121,700 female participants ages thirty to fifty-five; the second part began in 1989, called the Nurses' Health II study, and it followed 116,671 female nurses ages twenty-five to forty-two.

The study participants measured the stress they experienced at work and home; they were also asked about any physical and sexual abuse they suffered as children and teens.

In the first cohort, seventy-seven women developed MS by the year 2005. In the second group, 292 women developed the disease by 2004.

Researchers determined that stress levels from childhood, as well as at home and at work, had no effect on the risk of developing MS. Researchers also adjusted their findings to include other variables such as smoking habits, body mass index at age eighteen, ethnicity, and at what latitude they were born, but the conclusion stayed the same: stress played no significant role in the development of MS.

The only group that researchers determined had an “insignificant” increased risk of developing MS was a small collection of participants who had suffered severe sexual abuse as children.

"This rules out stress as a major risk factor for MS," said study author Trond Riise in a news release. "Future research can now focus on repeated and more fine-tuned measures of stress."

The study was released Tuesday in the May 31 issue of the journal Neurology.