Fear of relapse in patients suffering from RRMS influence their quality of life

Ali Khatibi, Tracey Weiland, Mohsen Dehghani

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, potentially debilitating disease that affects millions of patients worldwide. About 85% of patients experience a disease subtype characterised by relapses and remittance (RRMS). While many studies have investigated factors influencing patients’’ health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in RRMS, none have taken patients’ fear of relapses into account. In this study, we measured the patients’ self-reported HRQoL, fear of relapse (FoR), health anxiety (HA), number of relapses, duration of disease, type of medication and perceived level of side effects. Treating neurologists provided an estimate of patients’ disease severity. All covariates and demographic (personal and disease-related) characteristics were included in regression modelling of their association with HRQoL. The model showed that HRQoL was most strongly associated with disease severity estimated by neurologists, which was highly correlated with the number of relapses and disease duration. However, upon adjustment for FoR (in the presence of all covariates), this association between disease severity and HRQoL attenuated, and FoR remained the only covariate significantly associated with HRQoL. Notably, our modelling also revealed a significant association between HA and FoR in RRMS patients. This study,s findings have important implications for the management of MS in RRMS patients and point to the critical roles of FoR and HA as drivers of HRQoL in RRMS. Given the importance of HRQoL to the patient experience and economically, we argue that a more nuanced understanding is needed of the subjective nature of quality of life and its determinants. Interventions aimed at reducing psychological distress and anxiety should be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103137
Number of pages5
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
Early online date6 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Fear of relapse
  • Health anxiety
  • Quality of life
  • RRMS
  • Regression


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