In contrast to earlier reports, a new study involving subjects who worked in nursing has found that stress does not appear to increase a persons risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
A team of researchers from Norway and the Harvard School of Public Health 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. After considering factors such as age, ethnicity, body mass at age 18 and smoking, the study found that severe stress at home did not increase the risk of developing MS.
Also, 44% of all women experienced moderate stress at work, according to their responses, compared with 39% of women with MS. And 11% of all women reported experiencing severe stress at work, compared with 5% of the MS group.
There was also no significant increased risk in developing MS among those who reported severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence.
These results do not support a major role of stress in the development of the disease, but repeated and more focused measures of stress are needed to firmly exclude stress as a potential risk factor for MS, the researchers concluded.
The work appears in the May 31 print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. View the outline at http://www.neurology.org/content/76/22/1866.abstract.