Research: MS a disease of Affluence


Buchter B et al. Multiple Sclerosis: A Disease of Affluence?. Neuroepidemiology. 2012 39(1):51-56. [Epub ahead of print]

Multiple sclerosis is rare in tropical areas, but quite common in
developed countries. Hence, latitude has been accepted as a causal
factor for prevalence of multiple sclerosis. However, developed
countries have also strong economic power, which may be measured by real
gross domestic product per capita. 

Bivariate and multivariate regression models were used to assess the
association of the prevalence of multiple sclerosis of 62 countries with
real gross domestic product per capita and latitude. 

Results: Real
gross domestic product per capita and latitude are positively
associated with the prevalence of multiple sclerosis. Real gross
domestic product per capita is a much stronger predictor of prevalence
ofmultiple sclerosis than latitude. 

The strong correlation between the real gross domestic product per
capita and the prevalence rates of multiple sclerosis is pointing to a
new direction in research on the causes of multiple sclerosis. It is
plausible that certain lifestyles and consumption behaviors that require
high purchasing power might be associated with an increased risk of
multiple sclerosis.
                                                     Are plasters more likely to get MS?

It easy to try and link MS susceptibility to something when you
know of the geographical distribution. We could also say that the
distribution of MS is associated with having a certain type of car,
because we know there are more of them in certain countries. Just
check-out the car passing you in the fast-lane. But then you need to
see if all MS or disproportionately more people with MS have a flash car and do this
affluence and MS analysis within the country.

Is MS more common in affluent people? Maybe maybe not, but you would think so the way pharmaceutical companies are pricing their drugs.

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  • This study is actually hilarious.

    Unlike the Novartis cost comparability joke (over 10 ys!) we saw a couple of weeks ago, this one starts of by testing the wrong hypothesis.

    You can make a time series of data say pretty much whatever you want!
    It just happens here the the exogenous variable (Purchasing Power, GDP) is most likely a minor variable in MS. Any resulting interpretation make me smile again.

    Next one: most MSers don't have a Mustache. Let's spend few hundred thousands on testing whether facial hair helps prevent MS 🙂

    More hard science. Please.

  • I think that this theor may have ground. In places like India and Pakistan, MS is considered a disease of the middle classes as they have more of an indoor and sanatised lifestyle.

  • This light study could actually point to something – middle-class people are less exposed to viruses, bacteria so once they get infected with a virus e.g. EBV their bodies are not prepared to cope well with it as much as a child growing up in a less sterile environment.

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