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Case-control study of adverse childhood experiences and multiple sclerosis risk and clinical outcomes

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to numerous health conditions but understudied in multiple sclerosis (MS). This study’s objective was to test for the association between ACEs and MS risk and several clinical outcomes. We used a sample of adult, non-Hispanic MS cases (n = 1422) and controls (n = 1185) from Northern California. Eighteen ACEs were assessed including parent divorce, parent death, and abuse. Outcomes included MS risk, age of MS onset, Multiple Sclerosis Severity Scale score, and use of a walking aid. Logistic and linear regression estimated odds ratios (ORs) (and beta coefficients) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for ACEs operationalized as any/none, counts, individual events, and latent factors/patterns. Overall, more MS cases experienced ≥1 ACE compared to controls (54.5% and 53.8%, respectively). After adjusting for sex, birthyear, and race, this small difference was attenuated (OR = 1.01, 95% CI: 0.87, 1.18). There were no trends of increasing or decreasing odds of MS across ACE count categories. Consistent associations between individual ACEs between ages 0-10 and 11-20 years and MS risk were not detected. Factor analysis identified five latent ACE factors, but their associations with MS risk were approximately null. Age of MS onset and other clinical outcomes were not associated with ACEs after multiple testing correction. Despite rich data and multiple approaches to operationalizing ACEs, no consistent and statistically significant effects were observed between ACEs with MS. This highlights the challenges of studying sensitive, retrospective events among adults that occurred decades before data collection.

Authors: Horton, Mary K; McCurdy, Shannon; Shao, Xiaorong; Bellesis, Kalliope; Chinn, Terrence; Schaefer, Catherine; Barcellos, Lisa F

PLoS One. 2022;17(1):e0262093. Epub 2022-01-13.

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