Did you know 10 Australians are diagnosed with MS every week?
Multiple sclerosis is on the rise with new estimations showing 25,600* Australians now live with the condition, which is an increase of 4,400 over the past eight years.
But while the prevalence is increasing, MS remains firmly under our radar with only four out of 10 Australians ranking MS a community health priority.
These early findings form part of an MS Report Card published today by MS Research Australia, to mark the launch of Kiss Goodbye to MS month in May.
What is MS?
MS is an incurable, chronic, often debilitating inflammatory neurological condition where the body’s immune system attacks itself and damages the protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibres (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord.
MS affects more young people than any other acquired chronic neurological disease often striking in the prime of life. The average age of diagnosis is just 30 years old and three out of four people diagnosed are female.
MS can lead to a decrease in quality of life equivalent to late-stage cancer or a major stroke.
MS flies under community’s radar
The MS Report Card brings together calculations from researchers at the Menzies Institute of Medical Research in Tasmania and community insights gathered in mid-April via YouGov Galaxy among 1,056 Australian adults nationally.
The research confirms a staggering 7 million Australians know someone diagnosed with MS and 2.7 million have a close friend, family member or relative with MS.
Furthermore, the cost of MS to the community is now a staggering $1.9 billion, covering direct costs including treatment, healthcare and disability services, and indirect costs due to lost productivity (reduced unemployment, informal unpaid care).
The general public ranks MS 8th on a health priority list behind mental health, cancer, diabetes, heart health, dementia, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s disease. The report also confirms our understanding of MS remains low:
Only half Australians know MS is an autoimmune condition affecting the central nervous system.
One in five admits they don’t know what MS is.
One in two Australians is unable to identify what causes MS.
Almost 40 percent of Australians correctly identify genetics as one of the causes
One in ten understands a virus infection may be involved.
One in ten wrongly believes stress is the cause.
MS is, in fact, caused by a complex combination of factors that include genes, viral infections and ‘environmental’ factors such as smoking, low sunlight and vitamin D, and others.
Of most concern, even with many Australians having close interactions with those living with MS, half of Australians believe an MS diagnosis should be kept private or only shared with family/friends and some work colleagues.
Despite these findings, 40 percent of Australians believe research funding into chronic and disabling diseases should focus on diseases affecting people in their 20-40s – exactly the prime of life when MS is most commonly diagnosed – and younger Australians from 0-20 years old.
Of those who see MS as a research priority, they want to focus research efforts on finding a cure, followed by wanting to uncover the means to prevent MS, while want to find the cause.
So, the big question is, what’s being done to raise the profile of MS in Australia and how can we help?
Aussie scientists go red for MS research
On May 1, 16 internationally recognised research institutions across Australia stepped forward from their labs and into the social media spotlight swapping traditional white lab coats to red ones to raise awareness for MS research.
The fun campaign showcases their research efforts directly to the Australian public for the first time via videos and social posts with the hashtag #RedLabCoatDay.
Kiss Goodbye to MS
Kiss Goodbye to MS is a unique national initiative by MS Research Australia focussed on raising critical funds for Australian MS research. It aims to raise $1.3 million in 2018.
The campaign encourages everyday Aussies to be heroes simply by wearing red lippy in May or by hosting a fundraiser with friends, at work or in the community by the options are pretty much limitless!
Kiss Goodbye to MS donations can be made directly to Kiss Goodbye to MS. Australians are also urged to show their support via social channels.
Learn more by visiting www.kissgoodbyetoms.org.