The Psychological Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Patients with MS

Lockdowns and quarantines implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19 have taken a significant toll on the mental health of many people. Patients with chronic diseases, many of whom are at a greater risk of COVID-19 compared with the general population, have been affected even more significantly. According to a study, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may have suffered worse psychological effects as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic than the general population.

Sixty patients with MS and 50 healthy controls responded to a web-based survey that asked about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their quality of life, job, and daily routine. The Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II) and Generalized Anxiety Disease 7 (GAD-7) were used to assess mood, the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) to evaluate fatigue, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) to analyze sleep quality.

Patients with MS had statistically significantly higher BDI, FSS, and PSQI scores compared with the healthy controls (P<0.05). BDI subscores unveiled a statistically significant difference in sleep, appetite, sex, and quality of sleep (P<0.05). One in five patients with MS said they experienced new symptoms or worsening existing symptoms, although none to the point of requiring hospitalization. Among patients with MS, unemployment was significantly associated with BDI total score, GAD-7, and PSQI, while the presence of new symptoms or worsening of existing symptoms was associated with FSS and PSQI.

“The COVID-19 epidemic poses a challenge to psychological resilience and the after-effects of the pandemic can be very different between patients affected by chronic diseases and the general population. Research data are needed to better understand neuropsychiatric effects related to the viral pandemic and to develop evidence-driven strategies to improve the mental health of vulnerable groups—patients affected by chronic diseases, children, and adolescents—during the disease outbreaks,” the study authors concluded.