Study reveals link between anxiety and Parkinson's disease

Anxious people over the age of 50 may be twice as likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who are free of anxiety, a new analysis suggests.

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, looked at primary care data from the United Kingdom. Researchers compared a group of 109,435 people aged 50 and over who were diagnosed with a first episode of anxiety between 2008 and 2018 with a control group of 987,691 people who were free of anxiety.

Researchers said 331 of the 331 patients in the study who had anxiety disorders developed Parkinson's disease over the course of a decade, and among those who developed the disease, the average was 4.9 years after their first anxiety disorder was diagnosed.

After adjusting for age, lifestyle factors, mental illness and other factors, people with anxiety were twice as likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who had not been diagnosed with anxiety. Those who developed the disease were more likely to be male and from higher socio-economic groups.

Other factors were also associated with the development of Parkinson's disease: The researchers found that people who had depression, sleep disturbances, fatigue, cognitive impairment, low blood pressure, tremors, stiffness, loss of balance or constipation were more likely to develop the condition. Those who also had dizziness, shoulder pain and urinary and erectile problems were less likely to develop Parkinson's disease.

“Anxiety has not been researched as much as other early indicators of Parkinson's disease,” Annette Schrag, professor of clinical neurosciences at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and co-leader of the study, said in a news release. She added that further research should focus on anxiety to figure out how Parkinson's disease can be better treated in the early stages.

Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States and affects about 1 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, although numbers vary and misdiagnosis is common. The disease is most commonly diagnosed in people age 60 and older, but 10 percent of people are diagnosed before age 50, and early symptoms can go unnoticed, the agency says.

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