von Drathen S, Heesen C, Gold SM, Peper J, Rahn AC, Ramien C, Magyari M, Hansen HC, Friede T.

Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis address the evidence on the association of psychological stressors with onset of multiple sclerosis, inflammatory disease activity (relapses or new disease activity on magnetic resonance imaging, MRI) and disability progression. Methods: PubMed was searched from 1946 to 15 July 2022. Studies and certain stressors were selected when they assessed stressors independent from stress elicited by the disease process itself. Risk of bias was assessed by the CASP Case Control Study Checklist and the CASP Cohort Study Checklist. Normal-Normal Hierarchical Model (NNHM) for random-effects meta-analysis was used in the Bayesian framework. Results: 30 studies reporting data from 26 cohorts reporting on 24.781 cases could be identified. Ten studies addressed stressors and MS disease onset showing a weak to modest effect of psychological stressors. A meta-analysis of three studies investigating diagnosed stress disorders and MS risk showed a 1.87-fold (CI 1.061 to 3.429) increased MS risk. Stress and MS relapse risk were addressed in 19 heterogeneous studies. Meta-analyses from two independent cohorts investigating the same military threat of a population showed a threefold increased risk for relapses in association with war (relapse rate: 3.0, CI 1.56 to 5.81). In addition, two studies confirmed an association of stressful life events and MRI activity. Three studies of stressors and disease progression were included indicating some effect on disease progression. Conclusions: Taken together studies indicate a minor to modest impact of psychological stressors on disease onset, inflammatory activity and progression of MS. Possible case-selection bias and lack of confounder analysis were present in many studies.

Brain Behav Immun. 2024 Jun:S0889

Link to Pubmed