The ongoing HOLISM study (Health Outcomes and Lifestyle Interventions in a Sample of people with Multiple Sclerosis) has successfully recruited around two and a half thousand people with MS world-wide to take part in this detailed examination of the association between lifestyle factors and MS disease activity, disability and quality of life.

This latest paper from the HOLISM database, published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, examined the smoking habits and alcohol consumption of this large group of people with MS. Most importantly, it found significant associations between smoking and poor health for PwMS.

Smoking and MS

The more cigarettes smoked, the worse the quality of life, and never smokers had better quality of life than former smokers who in turn had better quality of life than current smokers.

These associations were very strong. Smokers were also 90% more likely to need major mobility support than never smokers.

In contrast, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with better quality of life than low alcohol consumption; only a very small proportion of the group drank heavily, and this was associated with the worst quality of life.

Moderate alcohol and MS

Moderate alcohol consumption was also associated with lower levels of disability. Overall, the study supported previous work showing the hazards of cigarette smoking for PwMS, showing that those who give up have a better quality of life than those who keep smoking.

As in many other chronic diseases, moderate alcohol consumption does not appear to be harmful, and may actually be associated with better quality of life.


► Weiland TJ, Hadgkiss EJ, Jelinek GA, Pereira N, Marck CH, van der Meer DM. The association of alcohol consumption and smoking with quality of life, disability and disease activity in an international cross-section of people with multiple sclerosis. J Neuro Sci 2013; in press View pdf