Precursors to Social Isolation in Parkinson Disease: Neal Hermanowicz, MD

The neurologist at Christus St. Vincent Health System provided commentary on the importance of emphasizing social connectedness following diagnosis of Parkinson disease, along with the signs to look for in social isolation. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"Going to museums [and] engaging in cultural activities is good for us. It’s not just that we enjoy it, it’s actually good for our health. At some point, if you’ve lived by the age of 25, you’ve experienced a sense of home sickness or heartbreak, and these are realities. These are not just something in the air, these are things that affect our health and make us feel not so good. Changing those things can have a huge impact on the well-being of people."

Although sometimes difficult to chart, clinicians have traditionally thought that social connectedness has a positive impact on overall health. For patients with Parkinson disease (PD), social isolation, exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has had a significant effect on burden of mood and motor and nonmotor symptoms. This was confirmed in a recently published study by the Parkinson and Movement Disorders Alliance (PMD Alliance) in which patients with PD and care partners answered questions from a survey.1

The analysis also showed that decreased social support from outside of the household during the pandemic was significantly associated with increases in sadness/depression and anxiety, compared with maintained levels of social support (P <.0001 for both comparisons). Lead author Neal Hermanowicz, MD, neurologist, Christus St. Vincent Health System, believes the study speaks for itself, and the data add more value to the importance of social connectedness.

In an interview with NeurologyLive®, he was asked about the precursors to social isolation, in which he stressed the need to encourage the social aspects early on in a patient’s diagnosis. He noted the benefits these interactions may bring, citing a 2019 study that suggested that loneliness was correlated with individual differences in volumes of brain regions that are central to cognitive processing and emotional regulation.2

1. Hermanowicz N, Ospina MC, Torres-Yaghi Y, et al. Impact of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic on the patient burden of Parkinson disease: a PMD Alliance survey. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2022;18:633-643. doi:10.2147/NDT.S351691
2. Duzel S, Drewelies J, Gerstorf D, et al. Structural brain correlates of loneliness among older adults. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):13569. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-49888-2