Losing a Child Increases MS Risk

Such parents are 50 percent more likely to develop the disease

MONDAY, March 8, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Parents who suffer the death of a child are 50 percent more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than parents who don't go through that agony.

That's the conclusion of a Danish study in the March 9 issue of the journal Neurology.

The findings suggest psychological stress may play a role in the development of MS. While that belief is not new, this is the first study to examine a large group of people before they developed MS and follow them for several years.

The risk of developing MS was even greater for parents whose child died unexpectedly. The MS risk for those parents was more than twice that of parents who did not experience the death of a child, the study found.

"This is more evidence that stress plays a role in the disease, because losing a child unexpectedly is considered to be even more stressful for parents," study author Dr. Jiong Li, of the University of Aarhus, says in a prepared statement.

The study findings may help lead to a better understanding of what processes in the body are affected by stress and how that could result in multiple sclerosis, Li says. That could lead to development of treatments to prevent MS.

The study included 21,062 parents who lost a child and 293,745 parents who did not lose a child. The parents were tracked for an average of 9.5 years.

More information

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has more about MS.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, March 5, 2004
Consumer News