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Stress might not up the risk of developing multiple sclerosis

May 31, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • The stress of daily life may not have any impact on developing multiple sclerosis for women, a study finds
The stress of daily life may not have any impact on developing multiple sclerosis… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Stress might aggravate multiple sclerosis incidents, but being under stress may not increase the risk of developing the disease for women, a study finds.

Researchers studied two cohorts of the Nurses' Health Study to see if the stress of daily life or having a stressful childhood could put women more at risk for acquiring MS, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.

The Nurses' Health Study followed 121,700 female nurses age 30 to 55 starting in 1976, and the Nurses' Health II study followed 116,671 female nurses age 25 to 42 from 1989. The study participants rated the stress at work and home and were asked about any physical and sexual abuse they encountered as children and teens.

In the first group, 77 women developed MS by 2005. In the second group 292 women developed the disease by 2004. Stress levels at home and work had no effect on the risk of developing the disease, and that held true after the researchers adjusted for variables such as smoking habits, body mass index at age 18, ethnicity, and at what latitude they were born.

Stress from childhood physical and sexual abuse and trauma also did not raise the danger of developing the disease, and that also stayed the same after adjusting for variables. A small group of participants who endured severe sexual abuse as children had an insignificant increased risk of acquiring MS.

"This rules out stress as a major risk factor for MS," said study author Trond Riise, with the University of Bergen in Norway, 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.

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