Article Text

Research paper
Incidence and prevalence of multiple sclerosis in the UK 1990–2010: a descriptive study in the General Practice Research Database
  1. I S Mackenzie1,
  2. S V Morant1,
  3. G A Bloomfield2,
  4. T M MacDonald1,
  5. J O'Riordan3
  1. 1Medicines Monitoring Unit (MEMO), University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
  2. 2Multiple Sclerosis National Therapy Centres, Whitchurch, UK
  3. 3Tayside Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit, Department of Neurology, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Isla S Mackenzie, Medicines Monitoring Unit (MEMO), University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK; i.s.mackenzie{at}


Objectives To estimate the incidence and prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) by age and describe secular trends and geographic variations within the UK over the 20-year period between 1990 and 2010 and hence to provide updated information on the impact of MS throughout the UK.

Design A descriptive study.

Setting The study was carried out in the General Practice Research Database (GPRD), a primary care database representative of the UK population.

Main outcome measures Incidence and prevalence of MS per 100 000 population. Secular and geographical trends in incidence and prevalence of MS.

Results The prevalence of MS recorded in GPRD increased by about 2.4% per year (95% CI 2.3% to 2.6%) reaching 285.8 per 100 000 in women (95% CI 278.7 to 293.1) and 113.1 per 100 000 in men (95% CI 108.6 to 117.7) by 2010. There was a consistent downward trend in incidence of MS reaching 11.52 per 100 000/year (95% CI 10.96 to 12.11) in women and 4.84 per 100 000/year (95% CI 4.54 to 5.16) in men by 2010. Peak incidence occurred between ages 40 and 50 years and maximum prevalence between ages 55 and 60 years. Women accounted for 72% of prevalent and 71% of incident cases. Scotland had the highest incidence and prevalence rates in the UK.

Conclusions We estimate that 126 669 people were living with MS in the UK in 2010 (203.4 per 100 000 population) and that 6003 new cases were diagnosed that year (9.64 per 100 000/year). There is an increasing population living longer with MS, which has important implications for resource allocation for MS in the UK.

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epidemiology

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Supplementary materials

  • Supplementary Data

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

    Files in this Data Supplement:

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.