Indu Subramanian, MD: The Effect of Loneliness on Parkinson Disease Severity


The director of the VA Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers discussed how loneliness can impact Parkinson disease severity and how holistic approaches to care may help.

“It’s such a differently connected way of thinking about health these days that is quite profound as a pivot of change. I’m excited to see what the future holds. I think we have an opportunity to really think outside that box and intervene in ways that we never have before.”

In the last decade or so, medicine as a whole has begun to trend toward a more comprehensive care model, and while that has led to the widespread introduction of multidisciplinary teams to offer care, it has also led to some more outside-the-box thinking about patient care. A major part of that thinking is predicated on focusing on and improving quality of life for patients with chronic disease, in part by taking advantage of patient-centered measures. For patients with diseases such as Parkinson disease, this level of comprehensive care is essential.

For Indu Subramanian, MD, director, VA Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers, and Department of Neurology, UCLA, this has been a particularly important area of interest. Subramanian explained to NeurologyLive that as a trained movement disorder neurologist who also specializes in wellness and integrative medicine approaches, she’s looked for ways to use these practices to provide a more holistic approach to patients. At the 2020 MDS Virtual Congress, September 12–16, 2020, she presented data from a survey study of more than 1700 patients with idiopathic Parkinson from the CAM Care PD study that revealed that loneliness may have a great impact on disease severity.

All told, those data revealed that individuals who reported feeling lonely had higher PRO-PD scores, higher even than those for smoking and having a lot of stress. In contrast, exercising 7 days per week was as beneficial for patients as feeling lonely was detrimental. Having a lot of friends was also shown to be beneficial. In this interview, Subramanian discussed how these data suggest the importance of more comprehensive care for these patients.

For more coverage of MDS 2020, click here.

Subramanian I, Mischley L, Farahnik J. Loneliness/Social Isolation as a Risk Factor for Worsened Parkinson Disease Severity. Presented at MDS Virtual Congress; September 12–16, 2020.
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