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Anxiety is common in Parkinson’s, linked to worse life quality: Study

Anxiety is common among people with and contributes to a worse life quality for patients irrespective of motor symptom severity, according to a new German study.

Nearly 40% of the patients in the small study were found to have clinically relevant anxiety — and those with more severe anxiety also reported experiencing both more severe motor symptoms and worse quality of life.

Nonetheless, models indicated that both anxiety and symptom severity are independent contributors to worse health-related quality of life, known as HRQoL, the researchers noted.

Given these findings, the team wrote that “it is crucial to adopt a comprehensive diagnostic approach that detects and considers the impact of anxiety on HRQoL in PD [Parkinson’s disease].”

The study, “,” was published in BMC Geriatrics.

Researchers investigate impact of anxiety among Parkinson’s patients

Anxiety refers to excessive worry or fear. While everyone experiences some of these emotions, anxiety can be a problem when the worrying starts actively interfering with a person’s life.

Previous research has suggested that anxiety is a common in people with Parkinson’s disease. Indeed, studies estimate that approximately 1 in 3 patients have clinically relevant anxiety.

Now, researchers from two university hospitals in Germany sought to better understand how anxiety is related to patients’ quality of life and to the severity of .

“To improve the well-being of people with PD, it is important to understand the impact of anxiety in PD, especially its association with depressive and motor symptoms and its impact on health-related quality of life,” the researchers wrote.

A total of 91 people with Parkinson’s disease were surveyed. These patients tended to be older, with a median age of 73, and most had moderate motor symptoms but minimal cognitive problems.

To assess anxiety, the team used a standardized examination called the Geriatric Anxiety Scale (GAS). Among the patients, more than a third (38.5%) had a GAS score higher than 15, which the researchers said is indicative of clinically relevant anxiety.

To improve the well-being of people with PD [Parkinson’s disease], it is important to understand the impact of anxiety in PD, especially its association with depressive and motor symptoms and its impact on health-related quality of life (HRQoL).

The scientists noted that Parkinson’s patients with anxiety tended especially to report high scores on parts of the GAS that assess the severity of somatic anxiety symptoms, which are physical sensations associated with anxiety like an upset stomach or a racing heartbeat.

In addition to the GAS, the patients underwent standardized assessments of health-related life quality, motor symptom severity, and depression. Statistical models were used to assess the relationships between these different variables.

Anxiety, motor symptom severity contribute independently to life quality

The models indicated that patients with more severe anxiety, as measured by the GAS, tended to report more severe motor symptoms and also worse quality of life. In theory, this association could be because worse motor symptoms lead to both anxiety and worse life quality.

But importantly, the models indicated that both anxiety and motor symptom severity contributed independently to worse life quality — in other words, it’s not just that patients with more motor symptoms tend to be more anxious and have worse life quality, but that anxiety itself seems to worsen life quality regardless of how severe motor symptoms are.

“Regarding the separability of motor symptoms … and anxiety symptoms as assessed by the GAS, our data revealed that both contribute independently to HRQoL,” the scientists wrote.

Anxiety and depression scores also were closely linked. However, the researchers noted that the questionnaire used to measure depression in this study has many questions with similar language to those in the GAS, so this may be at least partly because it’s hard to reliably separate anxiety and depression with questionnaires.

Among the study’s limitations, the team noted that anxiety was assessed at just one point in time, which is limiting because anxiety can fluctuate a great deal from day to day. The team also noted that the study was limited to older adults with Parkinson’s who have minimal cognitive issues, so it’s unclear if these results would be applicable to other populations. The team called for further analyses in patients with more severe anxiety levels.

Overall, more studies are needed into the impact of anxiety in Parkinson’s to help create support systems for patients, the researchers concluded.