Objectives – Studies demonstrating reduced quality of life and psychological well-being in multiple sclerosis (MS) have typically investigated patients within more advanced stages of disease. The aim of the present paper was to evaluate the emotional burden and quality of life of recently diagnosed MS patients and their partners.
Methods – Data on health-related quality of life (SF-36), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and disease-related distress (Impact of Event Scale) were obtained in 101 patients and their partners (n = 78).
Results – On average 8 months after diagnosis (range 0–24 months), 34% of the patients and 40% of the partners had clinically high levels of anxiety, and 36% of the patients and 24% of the partners had levels of severe distress. Scores of anxiety, depression and distress were higher in patients with more functional limitations (Expanded Disability Status Scale = 3.0). Quality of life was significantly poorer in patients compared with controls, particularly among those with higher disability.
Conclusions – Both patients and their partners demonstrated high levels of anxiety and distress in the early period after the diagnosis. These findings indicate careful attention by health care professionals to identify those who may benefit from further psychological support.