Reasons for the Increase in Parkinson Disease Incidence: James Beck, PhD


The senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation detailed some of the potential reasons for the nearly 50% increase from the previously estimated rate. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

"Probably the biggest driving factor, and still remains the biggest risk factor for Parkinson disease, is age. We have an aging population. In fact, our population is moving from an aging pyramid—where we have more younger people at the bottom and fewer older people at the top—to a time point where that pyramid is becoming a pillar."

Parkinson disease (PD), a multi-system and multi-symptomatic neurodegenerative disorder, is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative condition diagnosed in North America. In late 2022, a Parkinson’s Foundation-backed study revealed that nearly 90,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year in the US, a 50% increase from the previously estimated rate of 60,000 diagnoses annually.

When observing individuals aged 65 and older, PD incidence estimates increased with age in the decades 65-74 years, 75-84 years in every study sample; however, at 85+ years, divergent incidence trends were found across datasets. Additionally, incidence estimates were higher in males as compared with females regardless of age, with the incidence rising in males first, most sharply between ages 64 and 74. Additionally, investigators found geographic differences in PD incidence, with a cluster of higher rates observed at the juxtaposition of the Midwestern and Southern regions of the US.

Improved estimates of disease incidence and mortality remain key for understanding disease risk, planning healthcare capacity, delivery, anticipating and addressing care disparities, and identifying unwarranted variations in care delivery, the study authors noted. Recently, NeurologyLive® sat down with study investigator James Beck, PhD, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation, to learn more about the underlying reasons driving PD incidence. He spoke about the rising age of society, how outdated previous estimates were, and why things like lifestyle choices, smoking, and environmental factors could play a role into these rates.

1. Willis AW, Roberts E, Beck JC, et al. Incidence of Parkinson disease in North America. Npj Parkinson’s Disease. 2022;8:170. doi:10.1038/s41531-022-00410-y.
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