For the longest time, I’ve been worried that I caused myself to have Multiple Sclerosis (and hence the accompanying seizure disorder) because of the amount of stress that I put myself under by going to law school.
Fortunately, I can rest easy, knowing that while I did push myself towards personal excellence and towards a career that I thought, at the time, was closer to a goal of financial security and more easily definable success, I did not cause myself to develop multiple sclerosis.
Researchers in Norway have discovered that while stress is a contributing factor to the likelihood of having a relapse in MS symptoms (more commonly referred to as an exacerbation or relapse), it is not a contributing factor to the likelihood of developing the disease in the first place.
Here’s the press released information about how they figured it all out:
“Researchers studied two groups of women nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study. The first group of 121,700 nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 were followed starting in 1976. The second group of 116,671 nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 were followed from 1989. Participants were asked to report general stress at home and at work, including physical and sexual abuse in childhood and as teenagers. Of the first group, 77 people developed MS by 2005. In the second group, 292 people developed the disease by 2004.
“The risk of MS is particularly high among young women, and the difference in the number of cases is consistent with the different ages of women in the two groups at the beginning of the MS follow-up,” said Riise.
After considering factors such as age, ethnicity, latitude of birth, body mass at age 18 and smoking, the study found that severe stress at home did not increase the risk of developing MS. There was also no significant increased risk in developing MS among those who reported severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence.
“This rules out stress as a major risk factor for MS. Future research can now focus on repeated and more fine-tuned measures of stress,” said Riise, who conducted the research as a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health.”
You can find the research is published in the May 31, 2011, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.