Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Reports Americans with Multiple Sclerosis are Three Times More Likely to Have Behavioral Health Conditions

CHICAGO – Commercially insured Americans with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are three times more likely to have behavioral health conditions, including major depression and substance use disorder, than the overall population, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) report. The Health Impact of Multiple Sclerosis, part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, also found that those diagnosed with MS are two to three times more likely to experience chronic health conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, compared to the overall population.

The report examined the BCBS Health Index, a database of de-identified medical claims from more than 41 million commercially insured members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies, from 2014 to 2017. The findings revealed that the average age of someone living with MS is 47 years old.

Additional findings from the study are:

  • There were 21,700 new MS diagnoses – a 4 percent increase from 2014 to 2017.
  • 75 percent of those diagnosed with MS are women.
  • Those diagnosed with MS are more than two times likely to experience coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • MS diagnosis rates are higher in northeastern states, though wide variations exist across the U.S.

“Based on these findings and upon learning that on average those living with MS lose 14.8 years of healthy life, we can see that MS has a clear impact on a person’s overall health. This is especially apparent when you consider about half of those diagnosed with MS are battling at least one other chronic health condition,” said Vincent Nelson, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs for BCBSA. “This is particularly true when it comes to an individual’s mental health. While substance use and major depression can affect anyone, there’s a connection here that we cannot ignore. We need to monitor these connections to ensure those with MS that are suffering from another condition receive the care they need when they need it.”

MS is a life-long disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the body’s ability to send neurological signals within and between the brain and other parts of the body. While MS symptoms widely vary per person, they often include progressive physical and cognitive decline. The cause of MS is not known and there is no cure yet, but there are Food and Drug Administration approved medications that have been shown to slow the disease course and progression.

According to the report, in 2017, more than 520,000 commercially insured Americans were living with MS.

“The National MS Society commends the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association for conducting this important study of health issues experienced by people living with MS,” said Bruce Bebo, Ph.D., executive vice president of research for the National MS Society. “This study confirms that people with MS are more likely to experience other medical and mood conditions that can impact their MS and overall health. The Society encourages and supports healthy lifestyle behaviors that can help people manage their MS and possibly shift the trajectory of the disease. The study also aligns with results of a Society study earlier this year that showed MS is much more prevalent in the U.S. than previously thought.”

This is the 27th study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series. For more information, visit https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america.

About National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The National MS Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more: nationalMSsociety.org, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health Indexsm. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.