Mental health links with Parkinson’s disease strengthened

Scientists believe that a common mental health disorder may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

The finding forms part of Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s new study into links between mental and physical disorders.

According to lead researcher Mu-Hong Chen, people who have bipolar disorder may be more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than people who do not have the mental health condition.

The link was first looked into after previous studies found a relationship between depression and Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers compared a total of 56,340 people who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder between 2001 and 2009, with 225,360 people of the same age, sex, and other factors who had never been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or Parkinson’s disease.

It was found that 372 of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder went on to develop Parkinson’s disease, compared to just 222 of those who did not have bipolar disorder.

After adjusting for multiple factors, the researchers concluded that people with bipolar disorder were nearly seven times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Commenting on the finding, Mr Chen said: “Further studies are needed to investigate whether these diseases share underlying processes or changes in the brain.

“These could include genetic alterations, inflammatory processes or problems with the transmission of messages between brain cells. If we could identify the underlying cause of this relationship, that could potentially help us develop treatments that could benefit both conditions.”

Parkinson’s disease is a rare condition which progressively damages parts of the brain over a number of years. The most common symptoms of the disease – which affects around 41 in every 100,000 people – are involuntary shaking of the body, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles.

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