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Parkinson’s disease and mental health: telephone therapy just as effective as routine treatments, says research

Managing the mental wellbeing of patients with Parkinson’s disease should be prioritised while vulnerable people go into Covid-19 lockdown, a major study has suggested.

The research, published by Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, suggests that the impact of depression on physical and mental decline in people with Parkinson’s is often “overlooked and undertreated”.

According to the latest figures, depression affects up to 50 per cent of people with Parkinson’s disease, usually as a result of less mobility and fewer social interactions.

However, Cognitive-behavioural therapy – even remotely – has shown “promising results” for treating mental health conditions in patients, indicating the need for access to remote mental health treatment for people with the disease.

For example, the study suggests that therapy by telephone may be effective in reducing depression symptoms. The research involved 72 participants with an average of 65. Each had Parkinson’s disease for an average of six years and depression for three years.

Over the course of the study, around half took part in a one-hour therapy session by telephone, while the other half continued standard treatment. It was found that after three months, those using telephone therapy reported fewer or less severe symptoms of depression compared to those in the control group.

Commenting on the findings, study author Roseanne Dobkin said: “These results are exciting because they show that specialized therapy significantly improves depression, anxiety and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease and also that these results last for at least six months.

“While these findings need to be replicated, they also support the promise of telemedicine to expand the reach of specialized treatment to people who live far from services or have difficulty traveling to appointments for other reasons.”

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