Multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers often suspect that their condition worsens if they've been under stress. In fact it's probably more an observation than a suspicion, and it was one that was mooted over a hundred years ago when Charcot identified 'grief, vexation and adverse changes in social circumstance' as a cause of the disease.
But is there really a causal link? A new meta-study, which analysed the results of 20 studies, discovered a 'significant' increase in worsening of the condition after some stressful event.
But is all stress the same? One study out of the 20 found the opposite effect - patients under stress saw a reduction in their symptoms, but, paradoxically, this was extreme stress involving MS patients in Tel Aviv who endured a month of missile attack. It appears the stress from everyday problems in life is the most pernicious.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2004; 328: 731-3).