Background

Social support is crucial for persons with multiple sclerosis (MS). We sought to analyze differences in perceived social support in persons with MS vs controls; to study associations between perceived social support, clinical measures, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) variables in persons with MS; and to establish a predictive value of perceived social support for HRQOL.

Methods

We studied 151 persons with MS (mean ± SD: age, 42.01 ± 9.97 years; educational level, 14.05 ± 3.26 years) and 89 controls (mean ± SD: age, 41.46 ± 12.25 years; educational level, 14.60 ± 2.44 years) using the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey (MOS-SSS), Expanded Disability Status Scale, Fatigue Severity Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Multiple Sclerosis International Quality of Life questionnaire. Parametric and nonparametric statistical methods were used accordingly; P < .05.

Results

Persons with MS exhibited lower scores on the MOS-SSS’s overall support index (t238 = −1.98, P = .04) and on each functional subscale (t238 = −2.56 to −2.19, P < .05). No significant differences were found on the social support structural component (P > .05). Significant associations were observed between social support and depression and fatigue (r = −0.20 to −0.29, P < .05) and with MusiQoL dimensions (r = −0.18 to 0.48, P < .05). Multiple regression analysis showed all 4 tested models contributed to HRQOL-explained variance (41%–47%). The emotional/informational support model explained the most HRQOL variability (47%).

Conclusions

Persons with MS perceived reduced social support, presenting lower functional scores than controls. Perceived social support proved to be a predictor of HRQOL. These findings should be considered during therapeutic treatment.

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