Who gets MS?
Using data from similar countries, and some New Zealand studies, we estimate that approximately 3,500 to 4,000 people in New Zealand have MS.
Important Predisposing Factors:
- Age – onset of symptoms is usually between the ages of 20 and 50 with a peak in the early 30’s. Diagnosis before 15 is uncommon and disease onset is unusual in those over 50.
- Gender – women are affected approximately three times as often as men.
- Ethnicity – MS is more prevalent in Europeans than in any other ethnic group. It is much less common in Māori and Polynesian people and is also less common in Asian people.
- Geography – cooler climates. Generally, MS becomes more common the further away from the equator you are. Thus, the prevalence of MS is much higher in countries like New Zealand, Scotland, and Canada than it is in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Furthermore, the prevalence in NZ’s South Island is approximately twice that in the upper half of the North Island.
- Genetics – having a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling) with MS increases the chances of having it approximately 20-fold. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of people with an affected first-degree relative do not develop MS. MS is not a hereditary disorder that is directly passed on from a parent to a child as a result of a single abnormal gene. It is thought to be more complex, involving multiple genes that play a role in the body’s immune response.
MS is not contagious or infectious; it is not possible to contract it from close contact with a person with MS.