The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced challenges to the social life and care of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), which could potentially worsen mental health problems. Despite an increasing body of literature on mental health in people with PD during the COVID-19 pandemic, insight into subgroup differences regarding the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health remains limited. This lack of insight has so far precluded the deployment of targeted interventions.
In this study among people with PD, the researchers investigated subgroup differences in the association of COVID-19 stressors with mental health and explored whether hypothetical interventions on COVID-19 stressors could improve mental health and quality of life. This study was conducted as part of the PRIME-NL study, a prospective cohort study of people with parkinsonism and their caregivers, and included 844 people with PD who filled out the baseline questionnaire of the PRIME-NL study. The project was led by Lisanne Dommershuijsen and Sirwan Darweesh and involved a joint effort of researchers in the field of Parkinson’s disease, from the Centre of Expertise for Parkinson and Movement Disorders of the Radboudumc, and Epidemiology, from the department of Epidemiology of the Erasmus MC. The results were published in npj Parkinson’s disease on October 28th.
They have found an association between all eight studied COVID-19 related stressors and symptoms of depression and anxiety. The largest effect was found for the stressor tension or conflict at home. Associations were more pronounced in women, people with a higher education and people with more advanced PD. Furthermore, a hypothetical 50% reduction of COVID-19 stressors in people with more advanced PD resulted in clinically relevant improvements in depressive and anxiety symptoms and quality of life in this subgroup of patients.
Insights from this study will help to inform tailored care interventions to subgroups of people with PD that are most vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. An example of such an intervention is mindfulness, which has recently been identified as a way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression in people with PD. It is thus of interest to further study whether mindfulness training can help to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in people with PD.
Dommershuijsen, L.J., Van der Heide, A., Van den Berg, E.M. et al. Mental health in people with Parkinson’s disease during the COVID-19 pandemic: potential for targeted interventions?. npj Parkinsons Dis. 7, 95 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41531-021-00238-y