Life span

Does MS reduce lifespan? I know of a lady who was diagnosed with MS when she was 50. She’s now 94, although wheelchair bound for 30 years !

Hi John.

I asked this very question to my neuro when I was diagnosed 10 years ago and a few times since.

The answer was categorically NO. The only reason it could affect life span is if we fall and bang our heads or don’t get infections treated in time etc. So not actually the MS but possibly things that can happen as a consequence of the MS, which can be avoided. (Hope that makes sense).

Be happy.

Shaszzie xx

On average it tends to shorten life span a bit, chiefly because of all the ills that go with chronic immobility. There are lots of aspects of advanced MS that are like extreme old age coming a bit early. But averages are only averages, as your friend’s experience demonstrates.

Not worth bothering about, I don’t think. You don’t want to be the person who steps carelessly off the kerb and into the path of a speeding bus because his nose was buried in actuarial tables of life expectancies.


Hi John,

There’s no doubt that a very few people will die prematurely as a result of complications of MS.

That means that statistically, as a group, we do have reduced life expectancy. It’s usually calculated at about seven years, but shrinking all the time.

However, once you exclude the tiny minority who have an extremely aggressive disease course - and - not a very nice topic, but has to be said - a few suicides, the vast majority of people with MS will have normal or near normal lifespans.

My great aunt lived to 87 with it, and, as far as I can tell from family folklore (not 100% reliable, as most who knew her personally have since died), she was only confined to a wheelchair during her last few months.

I do know that she was very overweight, and that my grandmother (her sister) used to denounce her as “antisocial”, because she kept herself to herself, and didn’t muck in at family gatherings.

But my grandmother never, ever mentioned that she was ill! I only found out by chance when I was diagnosed myself, and a distant relative (at a funeral, which is the only place most of these meetings ever happen now), said to my mother: “But that’s what Auntie J had!”

I’d heard of Auntie J - can’t recall ever having met her, and certainly didn’t know she had MS. “Antisocial” my foot! The woman was ill! But that generation had a different - and not very sympathetic - attitude to illness. Even though it’s not infectious, or related to hygiene, or anything like that, I think MS in the family was seen as shameful, and never mentioned. And it was much easier to label someone “antisocial” than to admit they probably felt too tired/ill to socialise.

I can’t blame Nanna - she was a product of her time. She didn’t really believe in illness, and always said: “Can’t is won’t!” (a bit tough on anyone who genuinely can’t). I suppose they’d lived through two world wars, and had either known or heard of unimaginable suffering and loss, so somebody being ill (especially with something largely invisible, like MS) was viewed as a kind of self-indulgence. “She could do it if she really wanted to” kind of thing. :frowning:

I wonder what Nanna would have made of my own illness?


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Sorry - when I say it’s shrinking, I did mean the GAP between our life expectancy and others’ is shrinking - not that our life our life expectancy is shrinking - LoL.

Our life expectancy is improving - much like the rest of the population.


I give up - last post doesn’t make sense either. You get what I mean. :wink:

According to the Barts Blog it does by about 5 to 10 years, but lifestyle choices can be far more damaging in my view. Do you smoke, drink, take exercise, or eat rubbish (otherwise known as treats)?

Living with the pollution in London is supposed to cut five years off straight away, but surely that’s a price worth paying.

Oh, terrificAnother example of MS being the gift that keeps on giving…

Before I was dxd at the beginning of the year with RRMS, my worst fear had always been (like many in the population apparently) - dementia, to include Alzheimers. My mother has dementia but not Alzheimers - she is in a care home, gets very confused, and the worst thing is that she knows she is confused and that nothing makes sense. I still feel apprehensive about dementia, and possibly getting it on top of the MS.

My neuro also told me that MS doesn’t shorten your life span. But if it does, I’ll be putting it on the list of yet another expectation I’ll have to manage differently. At the moment I get a new one every week!

Not really feeling sorry for myself today though, despite the negative post!

Yep, we get exactly what you mean Tina - and a very encouraging message it is too.

I agree with what you say about lifestyle choices Whammel, but feel the Barts Blog is a bit pessimistic. As someone points out, much of the research was carried out pre DMDs, so it is surely out of date, redundant. Now, I’m off to the chocolate shop - anyone coming with?

If it doesn’t reduce life-expectancy, try asking him why people with it can get enhanced annuity rates (the old-style way of providing a pension, though you don’t have to do it that way anymore - but still can).

To put it bluntly, insurance Cos. are willing to pay a higher pension if they don’t expect to have to pay it for as long (one of the few instances where you can actually get a better deal as a result of being ill).

It’s not just MS - on average, any chronic ill health reduces life expectancy - partly because, as Alison mentions, of complications caused by impaired mobility, or even just a less active lifestyle, and years of taking medication.

Although medicines generally are very safe, everything you’ve ever taken has a tiny risk of something, so people with chronic conditions, who take more drugs, and for longer, are at greater risk of something eventually going wrong. It’s not a personal prediction that any specific individual with MS will have a shortened life. It’s just that, as a group, we have more chance of it than Joe Public, because we have certain risks that are peculiar to us.


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I’m in, as long as they sell yellow bellies. …

I don’t reckon you live any longer if you avoid “treats” - it just feels longer. :wink:



Statistics are just that - statistics.

Individually we may or may not live a shorter life than if we didn’t have MS. It may or not be MS that does for us. We’ll never know on an individual basis.

Life is for living so I’d rather get on and just do that rather than wasting time worrying about theoretical probabilities.


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totally agree with you Anne

J x

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can’t come now, but if you can get me some strawberry bonbons and a caramac that’d be great. pay you later ;0)

my dad was in a dementia specialist home for the last 2 1/2 years of his life. He didn’t die of dementia, but his dementia probably contributed to not being aware that he was especially cold under a window, which probably caused the pneumonia that did actually kill him.

its all a waiting game with one thing and another… don’t sweat it (not meaning to sound flippant) but consider it as you do, as yet another dimension to the gift of MS ;0)

Regarding annuities, I recently took out two annuities. Neither company would offer enhanced rates because of my ms.

As everyone has said, MS in it’s self doesn’t reduce life expectancy, it maims it’s victims slowly & makes life very difficult, but complications may hasten a persons demise. However all that said, the human spirit is the strongest attribute everyone has & having “virtually” met everyone here, don’t think any of us are ready to fall off the mortal plain, just yet!!! Tracey x

i was told that any life expectancy reduction is negligible; 5 to 10 years at the most.

life style choices are far more deleterious.