To investigate associations of social support to psychological well-being, cognition, and motor functioning in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Secondarily, we were interested in exploring sex differences in these relationships, based on a bioevolutionary theoretical justification.
Social support was assessed in 185 recently diagnosed patients (RADIEMS cohort), and in an independent validation sample (MEMCONNECT cohort, n = 62). Patients also completed a comprehensive neurobehavioral evaluation including measures of mental health, fatigue, quality of life, cognition, and motor function. Correlations tested links between social support and these variables, along with potential gender differences.
In both samples, higher social support was associated with better mental health, quality of life, subjective cognitive function, and less fatigue. In the RADIEMS cohort, higher social support was associated with better motor functions, particularly grip strength and gait endurance in women.
These findings highlight associations of social support to overall psychological health and motor functioning in persons with MS, underlining the potential opportunity of evaluating and promoting social engagement in novel treatment strategies.
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Data from the RADIEMS cohort were used with permission from the Principal Investigator Dr. JF Sumowski.
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The authors wish to thank James F. Sumowski and the researchers and clinicians at the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, for contributing the RADIEMS cohort data for use in this study.
Funding for this study was provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (RG-1508-05892, MB-1605-08706) to Victoria M. Leavitt and the National Institutes of Health (National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institute of Child Health and Development, R01 HD082176) to James F. Sumowski.
Conflicts of interest
Claire S. Riley reports consulting or advisory work with Biogen Idec, Celgene, Genentech/Roche, Genzyme, TG Therapeutics. Philip De Jager is on the advisory board for the following: Celgene, Roche, Biogen, Genzyme, and has sponsored research agreements with Roche and Biogen. Victoria M. Leavitt has received consulting fees from Healios, Inc, and is the co-founder of eSupport Health, PBC. Anne Kever and Korhan Buyukturkoglu report no disclosures.
Ethical approval was granted by the institutional review boards of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. All participants provided written informed consent.
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Kever, A., Buyukturkoglu, K., Riley, C.S. et al. Social support is linked to mental health, quality of life, and motor function in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol 268, 1827–1836 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-020-10330-7