HealthDay News — Variations in the prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) are at least partly due to sociodemographic, health systems, and neurology-specific factors, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in Neurology.

Soonmyung Hwang, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted an ecological study to examine the associations between age- and sex-adjusted MS prevalence and prespecified sociodemographic, health system, neurology-specific, and lifestyle factors.

The researchers found that at the national level, univariable regression analyses showed significant associations for all investigated factors, apart from obesity prevalence and tobacco use. There was a significant association seen for latitude with MS prevalence in all world regions, while in five of six world regions, there was a significant association seen for the universal health coverage index. In high-income countries, significant associations were observed for MS prevalence with all factors except lifestyle factors and magnetic resonance imaging unit density, while no associations were seen in low-income countries. For all income strata, except low-income countries, latitude was associated with MS prevalence. Current health expenditure per capita and latitude remained significantly associated with MS prevalence in a multivariable analysis.

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“Health expenditure per capita was itself strongly correlated with MS prevalence and attenuated the observed association between latitude and MS prevalence,” the authors write. “Our results further suggest that the strong association between latitude and MS prevalence is at least partially accounted for by the association between latitude and wealth.”

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