ResearchSpeak: MS risk and socioeconomic status matters in Canada

What is your socioeconomic status? Did it affect your risk of getting MS? #’ResearchSpeak #MSBlog #MSResearch

“The effect of socioeconomic status (SES) on MS risk appears to be disappearing. In the past your risk of MS increased with increasing SES; if you were in the upper social strata 1 & 2 you had a higher risk of getting MS compared to people living in lower strata 4 & 5. These SES observations were used to support the hygiene hypothesis; the cleaner your living environment (upper strata) the less germs you were exposed to in childhood, the less educated your immune system were, the more likely you were to develop MS when you were exposed to infectious triggers later in life. The good news is that the SES and MS risk appears to be disappearing; at least in most countries. Some would argue that this is because economic development has lifted the majority of people in high-prevalence areas out of poverty and hence most people in developed countries now live in ‘clean environments’. However, not all countries are  equal with low SES in Canada still protecting you from getting MS. Interesting, or not? Maybe we should be studying developing countries where the disparity between hygienic environments between people living in the upper and lower socioeconomic strata is greatest.”

Goulden et al. Does low socioeconomic status in early life protect against multiple sclerosis? A multinational, case-control study.Eur J Neurol. 2015 Oct 16. doi: 10.1111/ene.12830.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The findings from existing research on the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and multiple sclerosis (MS) are inconsistent. Most previous studies are limited to one country and do not adequately adjust for other risk factors for the disease.

METHODS: The association between SES and MS was examined using data from the multinational Environmental Risk Factors in Multiple Sclerosis (EnvIMS) case-control study, comprising 2144 cases and 3859 controls from Norway, Canada and Italy. Multiple logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the association between early life SES, measured by parental educational level, and MS. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, sunlight exposure, history of infectious mononucleosis, smoking, obesity and family size.

RESULTS: Relative to those whose parents had primary school education or below, the adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for MS amongst individuals with university-educated parents, and the P value for trend across education levels, were 1.45 (1.03-2.05) in Canada (P for trend 0.030), 1.09 (0.85-1.39) in Norway (P for trend 0.395) and 0.65 (0.39-1.07) in Italy (P for trend 0.158).

CONCLUSION: There is no consistent association between parental SES and MS risk in Norway, Canada and Italy, with a protective effect of low SES only found in Canada

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