Health behaviours and outcomes in people with multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects one in 1000 Australians, 2.3 million people worldwide, and is often diagnosed in people between 20-40 years old. It affects more women than men, and can cause severe disability over time. Common symptoms and comorbidities are fatigue, muscle weakness, vision impairment, pain and depression. The cause is still unknown, and while there are treatments to prevent relapses (onset of new symptoms caused by inflammation in the central nervous system), there is no cure.

In the last decade, research started to show that modifiable factors such as smoking, obesity, low vitamin D, and sedentary behaviour contribute to the risk of developing MS, as well as worse health outcomes in those with MS. Dr Claudia Marck is investigating how  exercise, smoking and diet are associated with health outcomes such as mental health, pain, mobility and relapses in people with MS. She uses data from cohort studies such as the Australian MS Longitudinal Study (AMSLS) and Health Outcomes and Lifestyle In a Sample of people with MS (HOLISM) to study these associations.

Less is known about how to assist people with MS to change these health behaviours, and whether changing these behaviours leads to better MS outcomes. This research is about understanding behaviour change and therefore investigates behaviour change interventions in people with MS using longitudinal datasets and qualitative methods.

Funding

This project is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship.