Life Expectancy in Multiple Sclerosis

How Long You Live Is Based on so Many Factors and Ms Is Just One of Them.

Senior couple embracing on beach, rear view
MS and Life Expectancy. Digital Vision / Getty Images

If you or a loved one has multiple sclerosis, it is normal to wonder about the impact of MS on life expectancy.

While some people do die from direct or indirect MS-related causes, the life expectancy of a person with MS is said to be about seven years less than someone in the general population, according to a study in Neurology. In other words, the prognosis for longevity is reasonably favorable, except in rare people with very severe, quickly progressing MS.

That being said, this finding of "seven years less" is simply an average and does not predict the life expectancy of an individual with MS. Other medical problems and a person's general health (for example, their weight, eating habits, whether they smoke or not) are additional factors that may affect a person's life expectancy.

Quality of Life in Multiple Sclerosis

Besides the number of years that a person with MS will live, many people wonder about the impact of MS on the quality of life.

Just like people without MS, this seems to vary greatly. We all know people (again, without MS) who are 80 years old and put in a whole day of running errands, gardening and cleaning, while there are plenty of people in their 60s who have a hard time navigating a shopping mall without sitting down to rest a couple of times.

It is the same with MS—some people will be able to do less as time goes by and some will be capable of much more.

The key to optimizing your MS health is to not only care for your MS-related needs but to also consider your overall health. The good news is that healthy behaviors often benefit both, like exercise and maintaining a normal weight.

An Inspiring Story On Living With MS

At the annual meeting of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS 2012), presented by his friend of 60 years, this is the account of the life of a man who lived until 97 with MS.

Although the man's name was never given, his history was outlined on a poster, along with pictures of him.

He was born in Hungary in 1910 and emigrated to France 1929. He was a resistance fighter in WWII and a prisoner of war, but he escaped in 1941.

His MS-related medical history started when he was 22, when he experienced double vision. He was misdiagnosed with mercury poisoning at age 32, when he had weakness of both arms and chest, symptoms that disappeared after three weeks.

Although experiencing many symptoms over the years, he was finally diagnosed with MS in 1966. In 1971 he began using a wheelchair, which he did intermittently, but usually did not need it.

Although experiencing fatigue since 1965, often debilitating, he continued to work throughout his life. This man spent his career working as an architectural photographer, attending an exhibit of his own work three months before his death in 2007. He also remained sexually active into his 80s.

He died at age 97 of general weakness and respiratory failure shortly before his 97th birthday. He had lived 75 years with MS.

A Word From Verywell

The poster claimed that this man was the oldest person with MS at the time he died. Regardless of whether that can be confirmed, I find the story of this man (as condensed as it was on the poster) to be interesting and heartwarming from a human perspective and lovely that it made it into a scientific conference.

And it gave me hope that I, as well as you, can live a long and active life with this disease.


Marrie RA et al. Effect of comorbidity on mortality in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2015 Jul 21;85(3):240-7.

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