Family History of Parkinson's Associated with Higher Risk for Anxiety, Depression
> 12/7/2007 12:31:08 PM

People diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD) commonly develop anxiety or depression throughout their illness. Many, however, develop anxiety or depressive disorders prior to the onset of PD, sometimes by years or even decades. In a recent study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota examined this connection between a family history of PD and mental illness. Their results indicate that relatives of people with PD are more likely to develop anxiety or depressive disorders.

The study involved 1,000 first degree relatives of 162 patients with PD and 850 relatives of 147 control subjects. All participants were over 40 years of age. Medical conditions and psychiatric disorders were determined via a telephone interview and a review of participants' medical records. Individuals with a first degree relative with PD were more likely to develop psychiatric disorders, and mood and anxiety disorders were the most common. In the control subjects, 125 people within 76 families had a mood disorder, and 13 families had 3 or more affected members. 53 control subjects within 37 families had an anxiety disorder, and 3 families had 3 or more affected members. In relatives of patients with PD, however, 200 people within 96 families had a mood disorder. 28 families had 3 or more affected members. 90 people within 63 families had an anxiety disorder, and 7 families had 3 or more affected members. The risk was highest for the first degree relatives of patients who developed PD at a younger age, less than 66 years. Additionally, the risk was a not limited only to relatives of people who developed an anxiety or depressive disorder prior to being diagnosed with PD.

Having any chronic, progressive disorder puts an individual at risk for depression and anxiety, and it's likely that simply having a family history of a condition like PD also affects mental health. However, past research has indicated that PD may alter the brain in ways that increase an individual's vulnerability to depression. This study raises the possibility that genetic or environmental factors shared by family members may also be involved.

Individuals at risk for PD, due to a family history, may also be at risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, but additional research is necessary to explore this association between PD and mental disorders. The more we learn about how PD develops and the effects it has on physical and mental health, the better we will be able to treat not only those who suffer from it, but their families as well.

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