Background: Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) is reduced in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with the general population, yet there is little information about changes in MS as a function of aging. This is important as there is broad recognition of MS as a lifespan disease, and older adults with MS represent one of the largest segments of the MS population.
Objectives: This study examines HRQOL across the adult lifespan in persons with MS and healthy controls.
Methods: Participants included 206 persons with MS who were separated into 3 age-groups of young (age 20 – 39, n=57), middle-aged (age 40 – 59, n=90), and older adults (age 60 – 79, n=59). We further included 93 persons without MS (healthy controls) who were separated into 3 age-groups of young (age 20 – 39, n=31), middle-aged (age 40 – 59, n=26), and older adults (age 60 – 79, n=36). Participants completed a battery of questionnaires that included the SF-36 as a measure of HRQOL. We computed composite physical and mental HRQOL scores from the SF-36. The data were analyzed using a 2 (group: MS vs. controls) by 3 (age: young, middle-aged, and older) MANOVA on Physical Composite Scores (PCS) and Mental Composite Scores (MCS).
Results: There was no overall interaction of HRQOL scores (V = 0.002, F(4,586) = 0.165, p = 0.956), but there were main effects of group (MS vs. Control) (V = 0.217, F(2, 292) = 40.48, p < 0.001) and age group (V = 0.078, F(4, 586) = 5.92, p < 0.001) on HRQOL scores. The main effect of group indicated a large difference in PCS and modest difference in MCS between MS and Controls. The main effect of age indicated that as they age, independent of group, PCS went down and MCS went up. Conclusions: This study suggests that HRQOL is effected independently by age and MS status, and that these two factors do not play an interaction, disproportionate effect on HRQOL. The independent effects of MS status and age were larger for the HRQOL physical composite scores than mental composite scores. The next step involves interventions such as physical activity for reducing the effects on MS status of HRQOL across the lifespan.