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Original research
Multiple sclerosis mortality in New Zealand: a nationwide prospective study


Background Mortality data from Europe and North America show a shorter life expectancy for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). It is not known if a similar mortality risk exists in the southern hemisphere. We analysed the mortality outcomes of a comprehensive New Zealand (NZ) MS cohort, 15 years postrecruitment.

Methods All participants of the nationwide 2006 NZ MS prevalence study were included and mortality outcomes were compared with life table data from the NZ population using classic survival analyses, standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) and excess death rates (EDRs).

Results Of 2909 MS participants, 844 (29%) were deceased at the end of the 15-year study period. Median survival age for the MS cohort was 79.4 years (78.5, 80.3), compared with 86.6 years (85.5, 87.7) for the age-matched and sex-matched NZ population. The overall SMR was 1.9 (1.8, 2.1)). Symptom onset between 21 and 30 years corresponded to an SMR of 2.8 and a median survival age 9.8 years lower than the NZ population. Progressive-onset disease was associated with a survival gap of 9 years compared with 5.7 years for relapsing onset. The EDR for those diagnosed in 1997–2006 was 3.2 (2.6, 3.9) compared with 7.8 (5.8, 10.3) for those diagnosed between 1967 and 1976.

Conclusions New Zealanders with MS have a median survival age 7.2 years lower than the general population and twice the mortality risk. The survival gap was greater for progressive-onset disease and for those with an early age of onset.

  • multiple sclerosis
  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Requests for data should be made to the corresponding author, RL, and will be reviewed by our steering committee.

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