Mental Health in Parkinson Disease During the COVID-19 Pandemic: James Beck, PhD


The chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation discussed the importance of screening for mood disturbances in patients with PD.

“People with Parkinson's suffer a tremendously high levels of depression compared to the general population. It seems to be organic to Parkinson's disease, and yet it's eminently treatable. So, one of the things that we have discovered is that it may not be screened at the level that we would like. Many people come into their clinic visits with a list of problems and mental health is usually not a top priority.”

A recent survey conducted in telehealth use by patients with Parkinson disease (PD) during the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed disparities in telehealth between income and education levels. The survey was conducted by the Parkinson’s Foundation in conjunction with the Movement Disorders Division of the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Researchers also found that 893 (66.5%) respondents reported nervousness or anxiety, 683 (50.9%) reported feeling down or disturbed, 720 (53.7%) reported reduced interest or pleasure in doing things, and 888 (66.2%) reported sleep disturbances in the last 6 weeks prior to the survey. Women were more likely to experience feelings of nervousness, anxiousness, or being on edge (odds ration [OR], 1.81; 95% CI, 1.31–2.50). Other predictors were self-identification as white (OR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.07–3.12), and having reduced exercise (OR, 1.41; 95% CI 1.03–1.94).

Income level also had an effect on mood changes, as negative predictors of nervousness or anxiousness were a household income of more than $100,000 per year (OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.41–0.98) and being retired compared to being unemployed or receiving disability (OR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.22–0.83). Sleep disturbances were associated with being female (OR, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.08–2.05) and levodopa use (OR, 2.23; 95% CI, 1.39–3.58).

NeurologyLive spoke with James Beck, PhD, chief scientific officer, Parkinson’s Foundation, and adjunct associate professor, department of neuroscience and physiology, New York University School of Medicine, to learn more about mental health in patients with PD during the pandemic. He also discussed the role of social contact and isolation in mood.

Feeney MP, Xu Y, Surface M, et al. The impact of COVID-19 and social distancing on people with Parkinson’s disease: a survey study. NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2021;7(1):10. doi: 10.1038/s41531-020-00153-8
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