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Severe Underestimation of Parkinson Disease Prevalence

September 06, 2018

The prevalence of Parkinson disease (PD) in North America is not well established. Prior research studies attempting to provide estimates have varied widely, and many of the studies were only based on small numbers of cases or were from small regional subpopulations.

Researchers from the Parkinson’s Foundation initiated a study in 2014 to provide a better picture of PD prevalence, the Parkinson’s Prevalence Project, to help attract more attention from federal and state government regarding the growing urgency of addressing PD.

They report that within 2 years, 930,000 people in the United States will be living with the condition; that number is anticipated to rise to 1.2 million by 2030, which is twice as high as the count in a 1978 study, which has historically been used as the only other point of reference.

James Beck, PhD, chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation (New York, NY), and coauthors analyzed data from a multi-study sampling strategy in diverse geographic regions and/or data sources. Data came from 4 different regions across North America: California, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Ontario, Canada. These estimates were compared with nationwide Medicare data, and then combed using a multistudy sampling strategy whereby large populations are divided into smaller clusters to get accurate numbers that are then applied to an entire population.

Using their age- and sex-specific meta-estimates from California, Minnesota, and Ontario and the US population structure from 2010, authors estimate the overall prevalence of PD among those aged ≥45 years to be 572 per 100,000 (95% CI, 537–614); that there were 680,000 individuals in the US aged ≥45 years with PD in 2010; and that that number will rise to approximately 930,000 in 2020 and 1,238,000 in 2030 based on the US Census Bureau population projections. 

They also found that men are more likely to have PD than women, and the number of PD diagnoses increases with age, regardless of gender. In addition, the prevalence of people diagnosed with PD varies by region—they noted they will conduct follow-up studies to investigate this finding. 

Authors commented in the article: “These estimates can guide health-care planning but should be considered minimum estimates. Some heterogeneity exists that remains to be understood.”

—Amanda Del Signore

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