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Loneliness affects ‘three in five’ people with multiple sclerosis



It’s the time of year when the issue of loneliness is often brought into sharp focus.

Public awareness of the growing number of people who feel isolated and alone is rising, but for those with multiple sclerosis (MS), perhaps it’s not growing quickly enough.

New MS Society research released on Monday to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, claims that three in five people with MS feel lonely because of their condition – 12 times the figure in the general population (5%). A total of 58% say they feel isolated because of MS, and more than 40% say they have felt both.

Ed Holloway, MS Society director of services and support, said: “Anybody can be lonely, but we know from our research that loneliness is an issue which disproportionately affects people living with MS.

“The MS Society offers a whole host of support, including a free helpline, information and grants. Our local groups are based all around the UK, and provide friendship, social events and support to those affected by the condition.

“To think 60% of people with MS are lonely is shocking and we hope to encourage people to get in touch with us and join the fantastic community that’s out there.”

Mumford and Sons bassist Ted Dwane who has spoken of the loneliness of suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS)
Mumford and Sons bassist Ted Dwane, whose mother has MS, has spoken of the loneliness suffered

Dee Dee Morgan is one of more than 100,000 people in the UK with MS. A hundred more are diagnosed every week.

Living alone in London, and with mobility issues, she knows all too well how the illness can take its toll mentally as well as physically, and how easy it is to lose touch with society.

“MS can be very lonely,” she says. “Before MS, a lot of my social life was linked to work, so when I had to stop working that was a big loss. I got more free time but a lot of that was spent stuck in the house. My family aren’t round the corner, and they’ve all got busy lives so it’s not easy to drop everything. I have a carer who comes regularly and a few close friends, but don’t often want to go out, so unless people come to visit me I spend a lot of time by myself.”

Along with a TV and online campaign, the MS Society have commissioned a photography exhibition, in partnership with Mumford and Sons bassist Ted Dwane, whose mother Sarah has MS. They hope the exhibition, called The MS Connection, will give an insight into the lives of those with the disease.

Undated handout photo issued by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Mumford and Sons bassist Ted Dwane who has spoken of the loneliness of suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS)
Dwane says ‘having the right support can change everything’

Dwane says: “Mum was diagnosed at around the time I started touring, and my sister moved to Australia. It was a period of huge change for my parents and we weren’t there for them in the way we wanted to be. I’m still away a lot, but back then it was especially hard because my parents were just coming to terms with the diagnosis.

“Having the right support can change everything, and ultimately both my sister and I made a conscious decision to move back closer to home. A lot of people with MS simply don’t have that network, and can end up feeling totally left out of society.”

:: The exhibition is on at The Sidings in Southwark, London, and is expected to go on a tour of galleries around the country next year.

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