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MS Outcomes May Be Linked to Patients’ Social Networks, Study Reports

Social networks can have an effect on functional disability in multiple sclerosis.

A person’s social network can have an effect on their functional disability. This is what researchers discovered when they applied an online assessment tool they developed to people at risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).

The tool, developed by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Broad Institute in Boston, and Columbia University Medical Center in New York, make it possible to assess a person’s social networks in a robust and quantifiable way.

Their findings were reported in the study, “A scalable online tool for quantitative social network assessment reveals potentially modifiable social environmental risks,” published in the journal Nature Communications.

Social connectivity is known to affect a person’s health. While social isolation is a strong predictor of mortality, social interaction strengthens people’s sense of well-being and health.

While this link is clearly defined among healthy individuals, there is a lack of evidence on this connection among people with any type of disease. Researchers therefore pose the question on whether a person’s social network has an impact on his or her risk of developing a disease.

To answer this question, the research team developed and made accessible a social network assessment tool that quantifies a patient’s personal network structure and health habits. The tool can be applied to any patient population.

“We introduce a quantitative social network assessment tool on a secure open-source web platform, readily deployable in large-scale clinical studies,” the researchers wrote. “The tool maps an individual’s personal network, including specific persons, their relationships to each other, and their health habits.”

Read on: MS Outcomes May Be Linked to Patients' Social Networks, Study Reports

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