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Psychological impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on individuals living with multiple sclerosis: A rapid systematic review

Introduction: The global spread of COVID-19 has raised concerns about its possible impact on mental health. People living with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) are considered potentially vulnerable to the mental health effects of the pandemic, as they may be subject to increased social isolation.

Aim: To systematically review the current evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health outcomes among PwMS.

Method: We searched four major databases (Medline, EMBASE, PsychInfo and Scopus) and the WHO Global Health COVID-19 research database. We included peer-reviewed primary research studies using validated health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and psychometric screening tools to evaluate mental health outcomes among PwMS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies reporting data on the prevalence of mental health disorders, severity of psychological symptoms and contributing demographic and clinical factors for PwMS during the COVID-19 pandemic were included.

Results: Our initial search yielded 268 records; 19 studies (13 cross-sectional, 6 longitudinal) were included. Most were conducted during a peak in the pandemic in the host country via an online platform. The main mental health outcomes were depression, anxiety, stress, sleep quality and HRQOL. The included studies used a variety of outcome assessment tools and study designs. The prevalence of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress were high among PwMS during the pandemic. In addition, compared to control populations, PwMS experienced more severe symptoms of depression and stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, results from longitudinal studies demonstrate that the severity of mental health symptoms among PwMS during the pandemic were not significantly different compared with the pre-pandemic period.

Conclusion: Although mental health issues such as anxiety and depression were common among PwMS during the pandemic, current evidence suggests that mental health among PwMS has not been significantly affected by pandemic-related restrictive measures. Instead, the observed differences may be the result of pre-pandemic differences in prevalence and severity. Where possible, future studies should seek to address the methodological issues identified in the included studies to ensure that data collected during the pandemic can be synthesized into recommendations for policy and practice.


Publication title

Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders










School of Health Sciences


Elsevier BV

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