University of Washington
School of Medicine

Author Of 1 Presentation

Symptom Management Poster Presentation

P1089 - Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Compared to Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (ID 1492)

Presentation Number
Presentation Topic
Symptom Management



Depression is one of the most common and impactful symptoms experienced by people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Most participants in prior studies of depression in MS had relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), the most common MS subtype. Consequently, little is known about whether persons with progressive forms of MS have unique rehabilitation needs, such as higher risk for depression or suicidal ideation (SI), compared to persons with RRMS.


To (1) describe depressive symptom severity and SI in persons with progressive MS; (2) compare depressive symptom severity and SI in persons with progressive MS and persons with RRMS; and (3) identify common and unique risk factors for greater depressive symptom severity and SI risk in persons with progressive MS compared to individuals with RRMS.


Adults with MS (N = 573) completed an observational survey study on quality of life in people with physical disabilities, including but not limited to MS. The dependent variables were depression symptoms and any SI as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Comparisons between groups used t-test and chi-square analyses, and risk factors were tested by examining the interaction of MS subtype (progressive MS and RRMS) and each risk factor in multiple regression models with bootstrapping. Risk factors for greater depression severity and SI risk included age, race, gender, education level, marital status, employment status, household income, age at MS diagnosis, disease duration, disability level, problems with speech and/or swallowing, and current smoking status.


Persons with progressive MS did not differ from persons with RRMS in levels of depressive symptoms or SI. Both groups reported mild depression symptoms and approximately 10% endorsed SI. Common risk factors for greater depressive symptom severity were younger age, greater disability, greater speech and swallowing problems, and lower household income (p’s<.05). Common risk factors for SI were shorter disease duration, greater disability, and greater speech and swallowing problems (p’s<.05). For persons with progressive MS, shorter disease duration and being non-White were associated with greater depressive symptom severity, and being employed was associated with SI risk (p’s<.05).


In this sample, there were no group differences between persons with progressive MS and persons with RRMS in depressive symptom severity and SI, though shorter disease duration, identifying as a racial minority, and being employed were unique risk factors for depression outcomes in persons with progressive MS. Consistent with current treatment guidelines for MS care, these findings underscore the importance of screening for and treating depressive disorders in all persons with MS, with particular attention to the factors that place some individuals with progressive MS at greater risk for both depression and SI, whether common or unique to their course.