New research shows that loss of employment or early retirement is the biggest contributor to the economic cost of MS

“On World MS Day, we’re reminded of the costs MS imposes on those with the disease, on their families and on society as a whole. The report published today shows that loss of employment is the most significant factor in these costs. This is an area where we can make real progress with the cooperation of governments, employers and people affected by MS.” James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank.

The Multiple Sclerosis International Foundation released two pieces of research that suggest that access to employment could significantly reduce the financial costs of MS.

Counting the cost of multiple sclerosis

A new report released by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) today, “Global Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis”, estimates that the total average lifetime costs of the disease to the person affected and society as a whole, is $US 1.2 million (€ 890,000, £800,000). The report found that loss of employment, or early retirement, is the single largest factor contributing to this financial cost.

James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank and a past President of MSIF says the economic impact of MS highlights the need for a more concerted global response to the disease.

“On World MS Day, we’re reminded of the costs MS imposes on those with the disease, on their families and on society as a whole. The report published today shows that loss of employment is the most significant factor in these costs. This is an area where we can make real progress with the cooperation of governments, employers and people affected by MS,” said Mr Wolfensohn.

MSIF hopes that the report will be used by people affected by MS, national MS societies and governments to highlight the economic impact of MS nationally, regionally and globally and to develop initiatives to improve the quality of life of people affected by MS.

MSIF CEO Peer Baneke said, “MS often affects people when they are in the first decades of their working lives. The cost to society of losing these people permanently from the workforce is enormous.”

“Governments and employers can make a difference through better policy and employment practices. There needs to be greater awareness that a diagnosis of MS does not have to mean a lifetime without work. People with MS around the world continue to work and contribute to society but this requires some flexibility on the part of employers, and support from governments,” Peer Baneke said.

To read more about the economic impact of MS on the MSIF website click here

Survey highlights barriers to work for people with MS

A global survey of people with MS in 125 countries shows that almost half of those who gave up work due to MS did so within three years of being diagnosed with the disease.

Nearly 8,700 people in 125 countries took part in the survey, conducted by MSIF to find out more about the impacts of MS on employment.

Whilst 96% of those who took the survey were of working age (19-60 years), 41% were not working. A large proportion of those who were unemployed (85%) said that fatigue was the biggest barrier to employment, whilst many (72%) said that mobility issues had affected their ability to work.

When asked what changes would have allowed them to continue working, flexible working arrangements were top of participants’ lists, followed by greater awareness on the part of employers and fellow workers of how the disease affects a person’s ability to operate in a working environment. Simple measures like providing a space for people to rest were among the suggestions made by people with MS to enable them to get through the working day.

MSIF’s campaigns and communications manager Ayesha Ali said, “Work is a fundamental aspect of our lives. It provides not only a salary, but a sense of self worth, and an opportunity to lead an independent life. Our survey has highlighted some of the barriers that make it hard for people with MS to continue working. We are calling on governments and employers to tackle these barriers and help people stay in the workforce.”

The survey, released for World MS Day 2010, is the first to be conducted on a worldwide scale.

To take the survey click here

To read more about the results of the survey click here