Anxiety may be prodromal feature of Parkinson's disease

A UK study found that people with anxiety had a heightened risk of Parkinson's disease

Max Ryan

July 3, 2024

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  • Individuals with anxiety have at least a twofold higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease than those without anxiety, a new study published in the British Journal of General Practice has suggested.
    Researchers from the Division of Epidemiology and Health at University College London drew on 10-year data from primary care registry to compare almost 110,000 patients who developed anxiety after the age of 50 years to close to 900,000 matched controls without anxiety.
    After adjusting for a variety of sociodemographic, lifestyle, psychiatric, and neurological factors, the study authors found that the risk of developing Parkinson's was double in those with anxiety compared with controls.
    The presence of anxiety is increased in prodromal Parkinson's, but the prospective risk for the disease in those aged ≥ 50 years with new-onset anxiety was largely unknown.
    Investigators analysed data from a large UK primary care dataset that includes all people aged between 50 and 99 years who were registered with a participating practice from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2018.
    They identified 109,435 people (35% men) with more than one anxiety record in the database but no previous record of anxiety for ≥ 1 year and 878,256 people (37% men) with no history of anxiety (control group).
    Features of Parkinson's such as sleep problems, depression, tremor, and impaired balance were then tracked from the point of the anxiety diagnosis until one year before the Parkinson's diagnosis.
    Among those with anxiety, 331 developed PD during the follow-up period, with a median time to diagnosis of 4.9 years after the first recorded episode of anxiety.
    The incidence of PD was 1.2 per 1000 person-years (95% CI, 0.92-1.13) in those with anxiety vs 0.49 (95% CI, 0.47-0.52) in those without anxiety.
    After adjustment for age, sex, social deprivation, lifestyle factors, severe mental illness, head trauma and dementia, the risk for Parkinson's was double in those with anxiety compared with the non-anxiety group (hazard ratio, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.9-2.4).
    Individuals without anxiety also developed Parkinson's later than those with anxiety.
    The researchers identified specific symptoms that were associated with later development of Parkinson's in those with anxiety, including depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, among other symptoms.
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