Stepping up to the challenge of rising MS

02 March 2023

The number of Western Australians living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is increasing at a significant and accelerating rate.

The report commissioned by MS Australia provides insights into the impact of MS on individuals, families, and the wider community, highlighting the need for increased funding and research.

According to the report, 33,335 Australians were living with MS in 2021, with 3,040 of those individuals calling Western Australia home. This total is a jump up from 25,607 and 2219 respectively, reported in 2017.

The represents a total increase of 30% across Australia, with Western Australia reporting a steeper increase of 36% in the prevalence of MS in the community.

The findings show that women are three times more likely to develop MS than men, and the disease is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.

Also noted was the significant economic impact of MS, with an estimated cost for all people with MS in Australia increasing from $1.75 billion in 2017 to $2.5 billion in 2021. Looking closer to home, Western Australia increased from $151,739,658 in 2017, to $223,309,280 in 2021 – a 47% increase in cost. This is again higher than the national average of 42.8%.

While the rise in prevalence is a concern, the results were not unexpected according to Menzies Institute Principal Research Fellow and Royal Hobart Hospital Clinical Neurologist Professor Bruce Taylor.

“Increasing MS numbers are not what any of us want to see, however, the data is consistent with what we have been witnessing both domestically and internationally,” Professor Taylor said.

“Many lifestyle and behavioural risk factors contribute to a person developing MS, including obesity and insufficient sunlight exposure.”

“If we can narrow down more precisely what risk factors are driving this escalation through further research, we could significantly reduce the risk of MS in Australia and globally.”

MSWA CEO Melanie Kiely said the latest data was a timely reminder of the impact of MS and other neurological conditions have on individuals and families.

“MSWA is committed to empowering people to live their best lives and providing the best possible support,” Melanie said.

“We continue to work hard with the Western Australian community on our fundraising efforts including our upcoming MSWA Mega Home Lottery. Buying a ticket really does make a difference to people here in WA.”

In recent campaigns, MSWA has been including the people we support in our Mega Home Lottery draws and in the spotlight in our television commercials.

“It really completes the circle. To have our Clients share the news that changes someone’s life, when their lottery ticket helps to change the lives of our Clients,” Melanie said.

Nicolette Murphy, who is supported by MSWA, was involved in the Grand Prize Draw from our previous lottery.

“It was nerve wracking but so incredible to help reveal the winner, to be able to call them and not only change their life but let them know that their support has helped me too,” Nicolette said.

“I was diagnosed with MS over ten years ago, even though I didn’t choose it, I feel like I found a family in MSWA. I Know MSWA is part of my future and will always be there for me.”

Thanks to the generous support of our fundraising community, MSWA last year announced a further $5 million commitment to neurological research for the current financial year. This brought the total contribution to research from MSWA alone to $34 million over the last decade.

The MSWA Mega Home Lottery is now on sale, providing three lucky ticket purchasers the chance to live life with less stress and become an instant millionaire.

Every ticket purchased in the MSWA Mega Home Lottery makes a life changing difference to the lives of Western Australians living with neurological conditions.

Monetary donations aren’t the only way to make a difference, sign up to Step Up for MS or volunteer with us to engage in meaningful and rewarding work.

Read the full report here.