Depression and MS

For people with MS, depression is the single most important factor affecting quality of life – even more so than disability or fatigue.1 A major US consensus statement reported that depression was common in MS, and that it has a major negative impact on quality of life. Yet depression is both under-recognized and under-treated in people with MS;2 it is estimated that one in four people have undiagnosed symptoms of depression at any given time.3

It is known that depression is even more common for people with MS than for people with other chronic illnesses. Overall, approximately half of all people with MS will suffer from depression at some point during their lifetime.

  • An Italian study found 46% of patients had major depressive disorder 4
  • A Norwegian study found 59% of patients assessed had depression 5
  • An Australian study found 67% of patients were depressed 6

You’ve probably noticed that how you feel physically affects how you feel emotionally – the mind-body connection is a cycle. Depression increases inflammation in the body (the Th1 response), leading to a worsening of the physical illness, which can then lead to a worsening depression.

However, this cycle works the other way too. Feeling better physically can improve emotions, so preventing and managing depression is very important in managing MS.

According to the HOLISM study,7 diet, omega 3 supplements, exercise, and meditation are all helpful in combating depression, as is vitamin D, which can help prevent or at least reduce it, while improving cognitive function. 9-12

For more on the MS-depression connection, view Dr. Keryn Taylor’s talks about OMS research on depression here.


1. Benedict RH, Wahlig E, Bakshi R, et al. Predicting quality of life in multiple sclerosis: accounting for physical disability, fatigue, cognition, mood disorder, personality, and behavior change. J Neurol Sci 2005; 231:29-34
2.
The Goldman Consensus statement on depression in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler 2005; 11:328-337
3.
McGuigan C, Hutchinson M. Unrecognised symptoms of depression in a community-based population with multiple sclerosis. J Neurol 2005
4.
Galeazzi GM, Ferrari S, Giaroli G, et al. Psychiatric disorders and depression in multiple sclerosis outpatients: impact of disability and interferon beta therapy. Neurol Sci 2005; 26:255-262
5.
Figved N, Klevan G, Myhr KM, et al. Neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2005; 112:463-468
6.
Khan F, McPhail T, Brand C, et al. Multiple sclerosis: disability profile and quality of life in an Australian community cohort. Int J Rehabil Res 2006; 29:87-96
7.
Even C, Friedman S, Dardennes R, et al. [Prevalence of depression in multiple sclerosis: a review and meta-analysis.]. Rev Neurol (Paris) 2004; 160:917-925
7.
Taylor KT, Hadgkiss EJ, Jelinek GA, et al. Lifestyle and demographic factors and medications associated with depression risk in an international sample of people with multiple sclerosis. BMC Psychiatry; in press 2014
8.
Lansdowne AT, Provost SC. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998; 135:319-323
9.
Gloth FM, 3rd, Alam W, Hollis B. Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Nutr Health Aging 1999; 3:5-7
10.
Stumpf WE, Privette TH. Light, vitamin D and psychiatry. Role of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (soltriol) in etiology and therapy of seasonal affective disorder and other mental processes. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1989; 97:285-294
11.
Jorde R, Waterloo K, Saleh F, et al. Neuropsychological function in relation to serum parathyroid hormone and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels The Tromso study. J Neurol 2005

Main page footnotes

1. D’Alisa S, Miscio G, Baudo S, et al. Depression is the main determinant of quality of life in multiple sclerosis: A classification-regression (CART) study. Disabil Rehabil 2006; 28:307-314
2.
Lansdowne AT, Provost SC. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998; 135:319-323
3.
Gloth FM, 3rd, Alam W, Hollis B. Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Nutr Health Aging 1999; 3:5-7
4.
Stumpf WE, Privette TH. Light, vitamin D and psychiatry. Role of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (soltriol) in etiology and therapy of seasonal affective disorder and other mental processes. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1989; 97:285-294
5.
Jorde R, Waterloo K, Saleh F, et al. Neuropsychological function in relation to serum parathyroid hormone and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels The Tromso study. J Neurol 2005