July 21, 2022

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Multiple Sclerosis Prevalence

A US-study led by Dr. Annette Langer-Gould (Kaiser Permanente Southern California) and team assessed electronic health records of individuals in Southern California to determine whether the prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) varies by race and ethnicity and found that rates of MS are high in both White and Black communities, and lower rates of MS in Hispanic and Asian communities in Southern California.

To better understand prevalence of MS in different race and ethnicities, the researchers examined a multi-ethnic cohort of 2.6 million adults who live in Southern California. From this cohort, they identified 3,863 adults with MS and obtained information about race and ethnicity. The average age of patients with MS was 51.7 years and 76.8% were women.

In this study, the researchers found that age- and sex-standardized MS prevalence was similar in White (237.7 per 100,000) and Black (225.8 per 100,000) populations, but significantly lower among Hispanic (69.9 per 100,000) and Asian (22.6 per 100,000) persons. While previous studies in the United States have yielded conflicting results on rates of MS in the Black population, this study suggests that MS has affected Black and White American adults at similar rates for decades. Additionally, they found that among young adults 18 to 24 years of age, the MS prevalence was generally low, but highest among Black (48.5 per 100,000) and Hispanic (25.0 per 100,000) young adults, lower in White (18.0 per 100,000) young adults, and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander young adults (7.1 per 100,000).

The findings from this study suggest the experiences and burden of MS in the Black community have been significantly underrecognized. More studies are needed to further our understanding of MS across all race and ethnicities and to understand the rising rates of MS among Hispanic young adults.

Full text published in Neurology - Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Multiple Sclerosis Prevalence. Link to article - https://n.neurology.org/content/98/18/e1818