Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical and mental health comorbidity is common in people with multiple sclerosis: nationally representative cross-sectional population database analysis

Robert J Simpson1*, Gary McLean1, Bruce Guthrie2, Frances Mair1 and Stewart W Mercer1

Author Affiliations

1 General Practice and Primary Care, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 9LX, Scotland, UK

2 Quality, Safety and Informatics Research Group, Population Health Sciences Division, Mackenzie Building, Kirsty Semple Way, Dundee DD2 4BF, Scotland, UK

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BMC Neurology 2014, 14:128  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-128

Published: 13 June 2014



Comorbidity in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is associated with worse health and higher mortality. This study aims to describe clinician recorded comorbidities in people with MS.


39 comorbidities in 3826 people with MS aged ≥25 years were compared against 1,268,859 controls. Results were analysed by age, gender, and socioeconomic status, with unadjusted and adjusted Odds Ratios (ORs) calculated using logistic regression.


People with MS were more likely to have one (OR 2.44; 95% CI 2.26-2.64), two (OR 1.49; 95% CI 1.38-1.62), three (OR 1.86; 95% CI 1.69-2.04), four or more (OR 1.61; 95% CI 1.47-1.77) non-MS chronic conditions than controls, and greater mental health comorbidity (OR 2.94; 95% CI 2.75-3.14), which increased as the number of physical comorbidities rose. Cardiovascular conditions, including atrial fibrillation (OR 0.49; 95% CI 0.36-0.67), chronic kidney disease (OR 0.51; 95% CI 0.40-0.65), heart failure (OR 0.62; 95% CI 0.45-0.85), coronary heart disease (OR 0.64; 95% CI 0.52-0.71), and hypertension (OR 0.65; 95% CI 0.59-0.72) were significantly less common in people with MS.


People with MS have excess multiple chronic conditions, with associated increased mental health comorbidity. The low recorded cardiovascular comorbidity warrants further investigation.