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Depression Often Untreated in Parkinson's Disease

Depression Often Untreated in Parkinson’s Disease

It is well-known that depression is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease (PD), but for many patients, it is a symptom that remains untreated, according to a new study by researchers at Northwestern Medicine in collaboration with the National Parkinson’s Foundation (NPF).

Depression is the most prevalent non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease, a chronic neurodegenerative disorder typically associated with movement dysfunction (involuntary shaking and muscle stiffness).  

Other non-motor symptoms include worsening cognition and anxiety, olfactory dysfunction, and sleep disturbances. The non-motor symptoms can appear before the onset of motor symptoms.

“We confirmed suspicion that depression is a very common symptom in Parkinson’s disease. Nearly a quarter of the people in the study reported symptoms consistent with depression,” said first author Danny Bega, MD, instructor in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology.

“This is important because previous research has determined that depression is a major determinant of overall quality of life.”

Using the National Parkinson’s Foundation patient database, the researchers analyzed the records of more than 7,000 people with Parkinson’s disease. Among the patients who suffered from high levels of depressive symptoms, only one-third had been prescribed antidepressants before the study began, and even fewer were going to social workers or mental health professionals for counseling.

Then the researchers turned their attention to the remaining two-thirds of patients with depressive symptoms who were not receiving treatment before the study began. During a one-year period of observation, less than 10 percent of them received prescriptions for antidepressants or referrals to counseling. Doctors were most likely to recognize depression and advocate treatment for patients with the worst levels of depression.

“The majority of these patients remained untreated,” said Bega. “Still, the physician recognition of depression in this population was actually better than previous reports had suggested.”

Recognizing symptoms of depression may be lower for the general population of patients with Parkinson’s disease. The patients in this study had even visited medical centers that were considered “Centers of Excellence” by the NPF.

“Physicians must be more vigilant about screening patients for depression as part of a routine assessment of Parkinson’s disease, and the effectiveness of different treatments for depression in this population need to be assessed,” said Bega.

The findings were published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

Source: Northwestern University

Depressed elderly man photo by shutterstock.

Depression Often Untreated in Parkinson’s Disease

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Depression Often Untreated in Parkinson’s Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Aug 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.