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Journal of Neurology

, Volume 254, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Psychosocial interventions in people with multiple sclerosis

A review
  • K.S. Malcomson
  • L. Dunwoody
  • A.S. Lowe-Strong
REVIEW

Abstract

Background

Upon diagnosis individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) must cope with both day to day and disease-related stressors in addition to unpredictable, fluctuating and confusing symptoms. Furthermore, disease progression may interfere with employment, family life, relationships and social activities. Psychosocial interventions aim to help individuals manage these psychological, social and emotional challenges. However, there are no specific guidelines available regarding the most effective intervention content, format or delivery. Therefore, a review of the research that has utilised these interventions, specifically those which, by definition, aimed to improve quality of life (QoL) and/or well-being in people with MS, was considered essential in order to identify which aspects of these interventions may help alleviate the psychosocial challenges associated with MS.

Objectives

To identify all randomised controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-experimental, cohort, case control and case series studies that have investigated psychosocial interventions in people with MS which aimed to improve QoL and/or well-being, to establish the methodological quality of such studies, and to determine the effectiveness of the interventions.

Search strategy

Searches were carried out using computerised databases with predefined search terms; this was supplemented by manual searches of reference lists of all retrieved articles. Relevant journals were also hand searched.

Selection criteria

Studies written in English and published before January 2006, investigating the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions on QoL and/or well-being in people with MS, were eligible for inclusion.

Data collection and analysis

Methodological quality was independently assessed by two reviewers using the Downs and Black quality scoring checklist. The qualitative and quantitative characteristics of studies were extracted using a data extraction sheet.

Main results

Thirty-three studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria; however, interventions varied widely in content, delivery and duration. Furthermore, failure to report full methodological details, as well as weaknesses in study design, reduced the strength of inferences that could be drawn from these studies. These notwithstanding, there were three studies of sufficient quality to provide some evidence regarding the value of education/information, goal setting, homework assignments, exercise, discussion forums and multidisciplinary team support. Thus, this review has identified the potential benefit of the aforementioned activities in the psychosocial management of this population. However, further well designed clinical trials are warranted to determine, definitively, the effectiveness, or otherwise, of these components.

Keywords

Multiple sclerosis psychosocial interventions systematic review emotional well-being quality of life 

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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Research Institute, University of UlsterNewtownabbeyNorthern Ireland
  2. 2.School of Health Sciences, University of UlsterNewtownabbeyNorthern Ireland

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