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06 March 2015

Hope is a vital part of recovery in MS

How often have people with MS been told that they should not be given 'false hope' by their treating clinicians? Sadly, this seems to be a common occurrence. Perhaps this is to some extent explained by the fact that doctors treating PwMS have had read little research about hope on which to base their views.

Many pwMS find that hope is an important strategy in coping with their diagnosis and there have been several studies that have researched the link between hope and the effect it has.

One of these studies includes psychologists from Queensland, Australia, who have looked into the effect of hope in multiple sclerosis, and shown that it is an important part of recovery.

The study recruited 296 members of the MS Society of Queensland. The participants completed questionnaires at baseline and again 12 months later. The researchers were interested in how much hope they had, and whether there was a difference in response to stress, and in anxiety, depression and state of mind, between those with high hope and those with low hope. They used established scales to measure these variables. 

For those clinicians who don’t like to give people false hope, the results may come as something of a surprise! PwMS with high hope had more positive state of mind, greater life satisfaction and less depression; interestingly hope buffered the effects of high stress, so that under high stress, there was an even greater difference in favour of those with high hope, and they were considerably less anxious. 

Another group of researchers at the prestigious Peter McCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, have found that hope does indeed improve survival, and conversely that depression decreases survival time.

Hope is about having the will to take action to get better outcomes, to look at the available alternatives and be prepared to embrace them, essentially to realistically take control of the illness.

This concept of having hope fits with the message the OMS Recovery Program aims to spread. Embracing lifestyle changes that enhance health while taking positive steps to avoid depression, and taking control of the illness, result in considerably better outcomes for people with MS. 

► Listen to an interview with the researchers by Norman Swan of the ABC’s Health Report