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For those of you who are interested in UK issues regarding MS in Asians. #MSBlog


“MS in Asians and other minority groups from immigrant populations is very interesting and imporatant for several reasons. Firstly, first generation immigrants from Asia who arrive in this country (UK) are at low risk of MS. However, their offspring who are born in the UK are at high risk of developing MS. This argues strongly against the genetic component of MS and favors an environmental cause. The other aspect of Asian MS, which is similar to MS in Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Americans, is that MS has a much more aggressive course when compared to Caucasians. Why? The Asian community also bring cultural aspects to the table that needs one to be aware of so as to manage Asian MSers appropriately. For example, Asian families often keep it a secret that someone in their family has MS. Why? If you have answers to  these questions I would be interested in hearing from you.”

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

7 comments

  • It has much to do with shame and guilt, Prof G.

    Asians are very social beings… hugely social and community driven. Illness is often viewed as being almost otherworldly, as if delivered upon the sufferer by evil gods (as Hindus believe) or djinns (as Muslims believe). Either way, there is a sense that illness must have been brought about by sins of a past life, or the sins of parents.

    Asians are very family focussed. It is important to marry well. Having MS may very well affect your chances. Even if your sister is the one with the disease, that can still affect your own standing. The appearance of perfection must be upheld at all times, even when it doesn't seem fair. Therefore, it's best to hide such anomalies.

  • The Asian community gossips a lot. They're always looking for dirt. When you're doing well they begrudge and when the chips are down they love giving you a good kicking. It's usually the women, especially the menopausal ones, that are the hardest on you.

    • Prof G asked for insights regarding cultural attitudes of British Asian communities in relation to finding illness a shameful component that ought to be hid as much as possible. The comments left above actually revealed a lot for a non-Asian person like me in regards to how people of that community deal with MS. If you can't figure that out then you must be a quite simple person, Anon 11:39.

    • I am aware of the differences in relation to cultural attitudes to chronic disease. I highlighted these to give you some insight into another variable that needs to be taken into account when managing MSers.

      Another cultural difference in relation to Asians that needs highlighting is that Asians rarely volunteer being depressed and often somatize, i.e. complain of other symptoms when they are depressed. Pain is the the most common symptom. This problem seems to be more common in first generation migrants rather than 2nd or 3rd generation Asians. I assume the latter have been "Westernised" and don't have a problem speaking about their mood.

    • Exactly, the society where the individual resides will eventually dictate the response. first generation immigrants are much more likely to adhere to customs from their country of origin while 2nd and third generations probably consider themselves British, American, Canadian etc. Their response to chronic disease will reflect this.

  • I think one of the big issues with the Asian community is that of integration. They live in their own communities, marry in those communities and largely socialise according to their specific religions and casts. British black communities are more integrated than the Asians, I believe.

    I think the social pressures affecting British Asians is not exclusively a first generation problem. Asians have been in Britain for four or five generations yet the hang-ups perpetuate.

    I think Asians in Britain are more comfortable tying their identities to their motherlands than this country.

By Prof G

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