If only 0.1% of the population have MS.......

…how come everybody you meet says they know someone with MS?

Any statisticians out there? There must be some clever mathematical formula to explain, or is something else at work?

Please do add your theories.


People constantly think ive got m.e reckon of alot of people think the same maybe?

cos they lie?!

cos they are ignorant?!

cos they are human?!

or make up ur own reason cos I suspect u will never know THE truth…


Six degrees of separation, and all that?

I don’t know whether that’s scientifically true, but the theory that everyone is connected to everyone else by no more than six “hops”.

So it depends how literal they are being, when they say: “know”. Know personally, or know of (acquaintance, friend of a friend, second cousin’s neighbour etc).

If you use the word “know” quite loosely, it’s entirely possible everyone’s connected to someone with MS by no more than five or six hops.



It’s probably more logical than that.

MS have higher rates in the Northern Hemisphere. So North Europe, North America and Canada have the highest rates. There is also a link to viking ancestry which suggests that the mutation happened in their gene pool which would explain where the highest rates are located.

Tis a good point; presumably the 0.1% refers to a global population. whereas our particular contextual population are restricted to our shady northern climes and thus contain a greater proportion of MS encumbered folk?

do you not mean ‘the six degrees of kevin bacon’?

the science:

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Not what I meant, but yeah, was just reading about that, and it is based on the same idea, and there is some science behind it - it’s not just some random number someone has come up with.

Actual research suggests the real number is not as high as six, and could be as low as three or four. Especially if you don’t count the whole world, but look at dense populations like the UK. And do you include social media contacts as “knowing” someone? If you do, there are even more connections.

I don’t think it’s that hard to swallow that most people don’t have very many “hops” to someone with MS.



We can also overcomplicate it by saying there’s a chickenpox (ZVZ virus) and the epstein barr virus, etc etc.

But to answer the question quite directly: If you were to move to, for example, Africa - you would find that you would be hard pushed to find people who know of people with MS.

Ethnically pure countries, such as Japan, have incredibly low rates of MS

No, the 0.1% sounds about right for the UK as a whole.

It’s about 1 in 1000 overall, but could be as low as 1 in 800 for Scotland.

I don’t think the proportion is wrong - it’s just what are the chances of most other people “knowing” someone in that 0.1%?

I think quite good, as long as you’re not too strict about what “knowing” means. It definitely needn’t be the Biblical sense, or even someone you necessarily socialise with. Someone in the same workplace? The same town?

My mum’s 75 and doesn’t get out much - her social life is almost nil. Even she “knows” someone a couple of streets away who has MS - or more specifically, the girl’s mother. They don’t meet for coffee or anything, but she knows her enough to say hallo to, and has seen the girl out and about with her mum, on occasion, so knows her enough to greet in the street, too.


hi clucker

apparently world MS numbers are 2 million. assuming a current world population of 7 billion (which its over), that’s 0.03% rounded up.

we are a VERY exclusive club in those terms!

what you say is correct- we had friends over for dinner sat night, and she knew 3 people with it and i believe her as she doesn’t tend to bs. there are 2 people (including me) who’ve got it at work… i personally think its jealousy ;0)

There is also a disproportionately higher number of Southern Asian people with MS (people from the Indian Sub Continent) and also People of Carribean ancestry the further that they they (or their ancestors) have moved North from the Equator.

My first Neuro (who was of Indian heritage) mentioned this when I was first diagnosed and he was of the opinion that, in their cases, it might have something to do with how efficiently they were able to absorb Vitamin D. The nearer you were to the Equator it obviously didn’t matter if you weren’t that good at processing it because you were always going to get a high dose naturally.

Different routes to the same rubbish destination!

Out of a small group of people (about 300) doing the same job as me who are based all round England and Wales there are 3 people that I know (including me) who have MS.

Based on that, that would be would be 1% of the population but it is far too small a base to draw any meaningful conclusions from - I actually used to work with one of them in the past in a very small office (only about 20 of us) so if you tried to use that as a base that would mean that you would be saying that 10% of the population has MS!

In the year group I taught last year there were 3 parents who had MS, 2 of children in 1 class. As well as me. It feels like a high proportion. Maybe MS is more prevalent than we know? Scary thought.


I think it all sounds perfectly reasonable to me. The number of people in the UK with MS is usually quoted as being 100,000. The UK population is 64.1 million. So that means that 0.16% of people here in Blighty have MS. I’ve got over 250 people I’m ‘friends’ with on facebook. Then there’s about 15 people on my team at work. And that could easily reach 40 or so people I’ve been on a team with over the last few years, not to mention people who are in the same office and see me everyday at work. There’ll be a stack of people at church who know me. And, of course, there’s my family (13 in my direct family of brothers, in-laws, nephews & nieces, plus all my aunts, uncles, cousins etc)

Adding all of those up could easily come to over 400 people (which is quite a scary thought!). Obviously I’m not close friends with the vast majority of them, but it would be fair enough for them to say they know me, and will have a basic idea of my overall level of health. Taking me as an average person, multiplying that out covers 40 million. That’s not the whole population covered of course, but if you discounted children and only included adults, then I think it’s plausible that everyone can claim to know someone with MS. But not, as Tina says, know them biblically : )



why does the phrase “know him biblically” make me chuckle?

childish? moi?

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I know (both ladies so no bible involved!) two other people with MS (a close neighbour and a lady who lives in my village).

My two sons both have friends whose mothers have MS - that’s 4.

If you include friends of friends etc, I’m aware of at least 9 people who have MS.

I think that’s a lot!

Emma x


i know lots of folk with ms because i have now expanded my friends to include those i met via here!

but because we met via here doesnt mean that ms is all we talk about!

i have been to belgium frequently (when well) and to england-various areas to meet/stay with friends met through here.

and now cos i am not at all good physically i treasure those times and accept that phone/text/email is the way it is!

i suppose this is an opportunity to suggest attending your local mss group/meetings as u will never know when u will need their support-either in the group or friendships developed outwith.


Just a mathematical point. If about 3 people in 200 in the UK have MS (that’s roughly 1.6%), they won’t be spread evenly through the population. I mean that in a primary school with 300 kids in, there would be 600 parents with kids in the school. On average, three of the parents would have MS. But that’s just on average. In actuality, there will be lots of schools where none of the parents have MS, lots where one or two do and lots where five, or six or seven of the parents have MS (at the primary school where my kids went, at one point seven of the parents had MS). That’s just the way probability works.

i worked as an NVQ assessor in an annexe office, there were 7 or 8 of us based there, within a year 2 of us were dx MS. isn’t it that people are more likely to end up with MS the farther from the equator they grow up, not just the northern hemisphere?! so is our likelihood of getting MS 1 in 640 approximately? not us, i mean them… out there (we’re already stuffed)