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Prevalence of restless legs syndrome and associated factors in an otherwise healthy population: results from the Danish Blood Donor Study

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Didriksen, M 
Rigas, AS 
Allen, RP 
Burchell, BJ 
Di Angelantonio, Emanuele  ORCID logo


Objective Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological sensorimotor disorder characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs. RLS often occurs as a comorbid condition. Besides an increased risk of iron deficiency, blood donors are considered to be generally healthy. Blood donors are therefore an ideal population for studying factors associated with RLS occurrence, herein the role of iron. It is suggested that RLS is linked to sex, age, low socioeconomic status, unhealthy lifestyle, and iron deficiency. The objective of this study is therefore to estimate the RLS prevalence and identify associated biological, sociodemographic, economic, and lifestyle factors in a population of blood donors.

Methods A total of 13,448 blood donors enrolled in the Danish Blood Donor Study from May 2015 to May 2016. RLS cases were identified using the validated Cambridge–Hopkins RLS-questionnaire. Logistic regression models were applied to assess the relationship between RLS and data on socially related factors collected using questionnaires and population registers.

Results In this study, 7.2% women and 4.5% men were classified with RLS. RLS was associated with: female sex, high age, smoking, frequent alcohol consumption, and low education. RLS-related symptoms were associated with obesity, parity and donation intensity 3 years prior to inclusion among women. RLS was not related to: reduced plasma ferritin, employment status, and income.

Conclusions RLS is a frequent disorder in otherwise healthy individuals. The associations discovered in this study can be utilized in preventing or reducing RLS symptoms.



restless legs syndrome, Willise-Ekbom disease, sleep disorders, environmental factors, blood donation, The Danish Blood Donor

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Sleep Medicine

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The Danish Council for Independent Research - Medical Sciences, The Danish Administrative Regions, The Danish Blood Donor Research Foundation, The Danish Bio- and Genome bank, and The Brothers Hartmann Foundation.