Average age of MS diagnosis has risen significantly in last 50 years

Published: 19 August 2022

The age at which people are experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) has been rising according to a new study which looked at data from the last five decades.

Researchers found that from 1970 to 2019 the average age of MS onset rose by more than 10 years in both males and females.

Relapsing remitting MS, the most common form, can affect anyone at almost any age, most people experience the first symptoms between 20 and 40.

For this study, the researchers looked at the age of diagnosis of 1,622 patients followed at a reference centre for demyelinating diseases in northeast Spain.

Around two thirds of the participants were female. The mean average age at the onset of symptoms was 31.

To find out how age at diagnosis had changed, the patients were divided up into which decade they were diagnosed. Average age rose per decade, starting at 23.79 years in 1970-79, then to 27.86 in 1980-89, 30.07 in 1990-99, and 32.12 in 2000-09. For the last stretch, 2010-19, the average age was 34.28, which is an increase of more than 10 years since the 1970s.

The researchers said the rises were significant and suggested more recent lifestyle trends could be behind the figures. They cited a decline in smoking, more outdoor activities including sunbathing, and that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, a known risk factor for MS, is happening later in developed countries.