Stress and anxiety can have an adverse impact on health, and the experience of many around the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 is affecting health and well-being. Individuals with chronic disease such as multiple sclerosis may be particularly vulnerable in some ways, but also particularly resilient in others. This study evaluates the effects of belonging to online support groups that meet weekly for 12 weeks to address the stress and anxiety felt by individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This study will also measure and explore the effects of online support groups.
Anxiety is a pervasive and debilitating symptom for individuals with MS, who are at much greater risk for anxiety than the general population. The lifetime prevalence of anxiety in MS is estimated at 48.9%, compared to 37.9% in the general population. The negative consequences of anxiety for individuals with MS include impairment of work function and workplace attrition, increased healthcare usage and healthcare costs, increased physical disability (i.e., higher Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score), and reduced overall quality of life. And while anxiety has been shown to be acutely elevated both before and in the first years after diagnosis, individuals with longstanding MS also exhibit anxiety at higher rates than the general population. Of note, women are at heightened risk for both anxiety and MS, and lower socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with increased prevalence of anxiety in MS. In the SUNLIGHT study, participants join a structured meeting in which they receive content specifically focused on anxiety, its detrimental impact on individuals with MS, and an emphasis on techniques to reduce anxiety. Over the 12-week period of the intervention, participants learn techniques for stress reduction that can be self-administered, such that the benefits of participation outlive the active period of the intervention.
Behavioral: Online support Group
12 one-hour, once-weekly online support groups for people with Multiple Sclerosis to address anxiety related to the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects on them.
- MS Diagnosis
- 18 years or older
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York, 10032
Investigator: Ines Aguerre
Victoria Leavitt, PhD