The Effects of Depression in Parkinson Disease and Need for Mental Health Professionals: James Beck, PhD


The senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation provided perspective on the reasons for the lack of mental health specialists in Parkinson disease care and the complexities behind treating depression. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"Through our Parkinson disease outcome project, we saw utilization rate [of mental health specialists] in the single digit percentages, when we know that about 30% of patients with Parkinson disease, on average, are experiencing symptoms of depression, if not, full blown clinical depression."

Within the United States, an estimated 89% of patients diagnosed with Parkinson disease (PD) are eligible for government-provided Medicare health insurance either because of their age or prolonged disability status. Earlier this year, the Parkinson’s Foundation published a study analyzing the health care utilization patterns of those with a PD diagnosis enrolled in Medicare in 2019.

Published in Nature, the study found several alarming disparities in care. In total, 40% of PD beneficiaries (n = 274,046) did not see a neurologist at all during the calendar year and only 9.1% visited a movement disorder specialist. In 2019, 20.3% of the population of Medicare beneficiaries living with PD used physical therapy, 9.5% used occupational therapy, and 7.5% used speech-language therapy. Despite 52.9% of Medicare beneficiaries with PD having a diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety, only 1.8% of these individuals had at least 1 clinical psychology visit and 3.9% had at least 1 psychiatry visit.

The implications of the study were particularly important when considered along with the significant rates of growth of incident PD in the US population, which increased more than 50% from 2012 to 2020. Following the results of this study, NeurologyLive® sat down with senior investigator James Beck, PhD, to discuss the disconnect between mental health professionals and PD care, and the challenges with integrating this type of necessary care. Beck, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation, discussed the severity of depression in patients with PD and how it overlaps with other similarly-presenting symptoms.

1. Pearson C, Hartzman A, Munevar D, et al. Care access and utilization among medicare beneficiaries living with Parkinson’s disease. npj Parkinson’s Disease. Published online July 10, 2023. doi:10.1038/s41531-023-00523
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