How Common Is Parkinson's Disease?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last updated: March 2022
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological disorder that gets worse over time. It affects movement, balance, and mood.1
PD is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. More than 10 million worldwide people live with PD.2,3
Who is affected?
The risk for developing PD increases as you age. The average age that people are diagnosed with is 70 years old. However, there is a small group of people with early onset PD. This is PD that is diagnosed before age 50. Men are also more likely to develop PD than women.4
There seems to be a genetic link to PD. You may be at higher risk of developing PD if one or more of your family members is living with PD. About 15 to 25 percent of people living with PD have family members living with it too.4
Environmental factors may also play a role in PD. Studies have shown that PD is more common in rural areas. Experts think this is because exposure to pesticides may increase your risk of developing PD.4
What is the prevalence?
It is important to understand the difference between incidence and prevalence. Incidence is the number of new cases of a disease that are diagnosed in a time period. Usually, incidence is the number of new cases per year.3
Prevalence is the number of cases of a disease that exist at any point in time. This number is larger because it includes new cases and all the existing cases of a disease.3
In 2014, the Parkinson’s Foundation started a project to get a better measurement of PD prevalence. Currently, there are an estimated 1 million people in the United States living with PD. About 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with PD in the United States. Experts estimate there will be 1.2 million people in the United States living with PD by 2030.1,3
Future projected estimates
Between 1990 and 2015, the amount of people living with PD around the world doubled. Scientists believe that number may double again to an estimated 12 million people by 2040. However, the number may rise even higher. This is because of several factors, including:5
- Population growth
- People across the world living longer
- Improved PD recognition and diagnosis
Most studies suggest that life expectancy for people living with PD is slightly reduced compared to people without PD. There are no clinical symptoms or tests that allow a doctor to accurately predict long-term life expectancy in a person with PD.4
There are many treatments for PD, and researchers are looking for more treatments every day. However, the later stages of PD do not always respond to drugs.4
PD itself is not fatal, but complications from the condition can be. These complications can relate to things like impaired balance, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and dementia.4
Those living with late-stage PD may hurt themselves after falling. Difficulty swallowing can result in choking or aspiration pneumonia.4
PD is different for everyone
It is important to note that PD is different for everyone. Though it is a progressive disorder, not every case of PD progresses the same. Some may progress faster or slower than others.
Different people also experience different symptoms. One person may experience only tremor and stiffness. Another may have difficulty with balance, mood changes, and slowness of movement or gradual loss of spontaneous movement (bradykinesia).4
It is difficult to predict how PD may affect someone and how symptoms may progress or change over time.4
If you have more questions about PD or would like to understand if you are at risk for developing PD, talk to your doctor.