epidemiology: incidence of multiple sclerosis in Gulf War era veterans

The spring 2013 newslet­ter for Vet­er­ans with Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis, has an arti­cle about a recent epi­demi­o­log­i­cal study con­ducted on Gulf War Vet­er­ans with MS, to find the dis­ease bur­den of MS. Accord­ing to the study, the inci­dence of MS has been increas­ing over the last forty years.

U.S. mil­i­tary pop­u­la­tions have been a source for epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies on MS since World War I, when Dr. Fred M. Dav­en­port pre­sented a study of mil­i­tary draftees that were dis­charged with MS. These and other stud­ies were done on vet­er­ans who served in World War II, the Korean Con­flict, and the Viet Nam War. Most of these stud­ies exam­ined risk fac­tors, age of onset, and the pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease until death.

In the new study a total of 2,169 Vet­er­ans who served dur­ing the Gulf War era (start of war in 1990 to 2007) and were service-​connected* for MS, were included in the study in an effort to find trends and MS risk fac­tors within this group.

The aver­age age of onset for this pop­u­la­tion was 31 years.

Women had an inci­dence of MS rates nearly three times as high as men, which is the same in most countries.

The rates for inci­dence of MS are increas­ing for Racial and Eth­nic minori­ties, which con­trasts with ear­lier stud­ies of MS show­ing that Whites were affected more.

The Air Force had the high­est inci­dence rate, fol­lowed by the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and finally the Marines. The “boots on the ground” Air Force and Army vet­er­ans had a higher inci­dence than other sol­diers; which is an odd con­trast to the Marines hav­ing the low­est rate.

Fur­ther stud­ies will be look­ing more deeply into the rela­tion­ships between minor­ity pop­u­la­tions and MS. For more infor­ma­tion on this study, you can read the abstract at

“The Gulf War era mul­ti­ple cohort; age and inci­dence rates by race, sex, and ser­vice” in Brain: a Jour­nal of Neu­rol­ogy from Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, or pay an exor­bi­tant amount of money to sub­scribe to the jour­nal, or pay $32.00 to access this arti­cle for one day. On the bright side, if you reg­is­ter with this jour­nal, you can have access to some free pub­li­ca­tions in each issue like

Mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing evi­dence for presymp­to­matic change in thal­a­mus and cau­date in famil­ial Alzheimer’s dis­ease.


On the bright side, Oxford Open has a vari­ety of fully open-​access journals.

* If an indi­vid­ual had symp­toms of MS in the mil­i­tary, or within seven years after hon­or­able dis­charge, he or she may be eli­gi­ble for service-​connected disability.