How Common is Parkinson’s Disease?

Epidemiology is the study of the­ incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors related to health. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that PD affects 1% of the population over the age of 60. A small percentage of people with PD (5% of all cases) are diagnosed before the age of 60.1,2 Overall, as many as one million Americans are living with PD.3 Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year.1,2

The exact number of people who have PD is difficult to determine because many people do not get diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. In addition, diagnosis can be complicated and other conditions can produce similar symptoms. There is no definitive test for PD, so sometimes people with PD may get misdiagnosed, or people with other conditions may be incorrectly diagnosed with PD.2

Who gets Parkinson’s disease?

  • Several studies have identified that the incidence of PD is more common in men than women.4 One estimate found that PD affects about 50% more men than women.2 The reasons for the differences in men and women with PD are unclear, although some suggested explanations are the protective effect of estrogen in women, the higher rate of minor head trauma and exposure to occupational toxins in men, and genetic susceptibility genes on the sex chromosomes.4
  • While some cases of PD occur in families, 90% of cases are sporadic, meaning they occur without an, as yet, identified inherited genetic predisposition.5
  • It is estimated that about 10 million people worldwide are living with PD. The incidence of the disease is higher in industrialized countries.3,4
  • The incidence of PD increases with age: while PD affects 1% of the population over the age of 60, this increases to 5% of the population over the age of 85.1
  • Approximately 5% of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 60.1
  • Several studies have found that PD is more common in Whites than in Blacks or Asians. It is estimated that the prevalence of PD is 50% lower in Blacks and Asians than in Whites. However, the highest incidence of PD is found in Hispanics, followed by non-Hispanic Whites, Asians, and Blacks. According to one analysis, the incidence of PD in Hispanics is 16.6 per 100,000 persons, compared to 13.6 per 100,000 in non-Hispanic Whites, 11.3 per 100,000 in Asians, and 10.2 per 100,000 in Blacks.6,7
  • Urban areas have a higher prevalence and incidence of PD.6

Projected estimates of Parkinson’s disease with aging population

As the life expectancy has increased worldwide, it is expected that the burden of chronic diseases, like PD, will continue to grow. (PD is largely diagnosed in people over the age of 60.) It is estimated that the number of people with PD in 2005 was approximately between 4.1million and 4.6 million and that will more than double by 2030 to between 8.7 million and 9.3 million.8

Mortality from Parkinson’s disease

With treatment, the life expectancy of people with PD is similar to that of the general population. However, dementia seems to largely impact life expectancy among people with PD, and about 25-40% of people with PD develop dementia in their lifetime. Risk factors for mortality include later age of onset, male sex, severity of motor impairment, presence of psychotic symptoms, and dementia. Early detection of disease, prevention of motor symptom progression, and treatment of dementia can increase life expectancy.5,9

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: March 2017
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