MS Incidence Study

A national incidence study of Multiple Sclerosis in New Zealand


In New Zealand, only two studies had been undertaken before 2017 to measure the incidence of multiple sclerosis (MS), both are regional, and were conducted between two and four decades ago - thus the true incidence of MS in the country was unknown. In addition, no previous study reported incidence or the rate of conversion from a first demyelinating event (FDE) to MS in a national population, which has lead to a significant knowledge gap of the natural history of early MS. 

Study Aims

The specific aims of the study were:

1. To determine the number of people presenting with a first demyelinating event or a new diagnosis of MS between June 1st 2012 and May 31st 2014.

2. To determine the rate of conversion from a first demyelinating event to MS over two years.

3. To determine whether the conversion rate is affected by where you live, (North or South Island) ethnic background or ancestry, as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking.

4. To document the symptoms at the time of the first demyelinating event and any further symptoms at 6, 12 and 24 months.

5. To examine whether the symptoms influence your general health status.

6. To examine whether the symptoms adversely affect your work or schooling at onset and two years.


How could the study be of use?

Knowledge about environmental and lifestyle factors and of the natural history of demyelinating syndromes is essential in order to develop early intervention strategies. The results of this study would help guide doctors in making treatment decisions and provide patients with a clearer idea of their risks of further demyelinating events.


The New Zealand Multiple Sclerosis incidence study began recruitment in 2012. The aim of the study was to identify all persons throughout NZ who were either diagnosed with MS or experienced their first symptoms of demyelination between June 1st 2012 and May 31st 2014. During the study period, we identified and recruited 463 into the study, 275 of whom had received a diagnosis of MS and 188 of whom experienced their first episode of inflammation. We also received 317 notifications of persons who didn’t meet the study criteria for reasons such as the symptoms were found not to be due to MS (n=280),  a number received an alternate diagnosis (n=11) or were diagnosed with MS outside the study period (n=26).


Latest reports:

Report in the 2014-5 MSNZ Annual Report

List of Published Research papers