Parkinson's Disease Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

It is more common with increasing age

Parkinson’s disease is the most common movement disorder. It is a gradually progressive neurological disease. It usually begins after age 60, although there are some people who have early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

This article describes the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease, the age of people affected by the disease, their life expectancy, and more. 

A healthcare provider with a person with Parkinson's disease

FG Trade / Getty Images

Parkinson's Disease Overview

Parkinson’s disease causes problems with movement, and it also causes non-motor symptoms, usually in the later stages of the disease. 

The most common characteristics of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Tremors of the arms, hands, legs, voice, or fingers, often described as “pill rolling”
  • Problems with balance 
  • Stiff movements 
  • Cogwheeling (non-fluid movements when limbs are moved passively, such as during a neurological examination)
  • Masked face (lack of facial expression)
  • Dizziness 
  • Mood lability (frequent mood changes)
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Constipation 
  • Depression
  • Dry and peeling skin on the face 
  • Thermoregulatory problems (body temperature irregularity)
  • Restless legs syndrome

How Common Is Parkinson's Disease? 

The incidence of Parkinson’s disease has been increasing in most countries around the world. This is likely due to an increase in life expectancy in the general population, as the condition is seen more often with older age. In the United States, Parkinson’s disease affects almost six per 1,000 people age 45 and over.

Parkinson's Disease by Ethnicity

Parkinson's disease affects people of all races and geographic regions worldwide. The incidence is higher among White Americans than among Black and Asian Americans. It is higher among Hispanics than among White Americans.

It is not known whether the different incidence and prevalence rates among people of different ethnic backgrounds are due to environmental or genetic factors.

Parkinson's Disease by Age and Gender 

Parkinson’s disease generally affects people who are over 60 years old. Early-onset Parkinson’s disease is defined as beginning before age 50. The prevalence of Parkinson’s disease increases with increasing age, and it is estimated to affect 1 in 40 people who are 85 to 89 years old.

People who begin to have symptoms at an older age generally have more severe symptoms and also have more comorbid conditions (other health issues occurring at the same time), such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

Parkinson’s disease is more common among males than females, affecting approximately twice as many males.

Causes of Parkinson's Disease and Risk Factors

Parkinson’s disease is caused by low dopamine activity in certain areas of the brain. It’s associated with degeneration of the substantia nigra, a small area of the brain that produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that mediates motor movements and other body functions. 

The underlying cause or trigger for these changes is not known, although some people have a family history of the condition.

Many potential risk factors have been examined as possible triggers, including exposure to chemicals, but no environmental or lifestyle factors have been confirmed as causing Parkinson’s disease. 

What Are the Mortality Rates for Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is not fatal, but it is often a handicap in advanced stages. Some people have a higher risk of death associated with Parkinson's disease, but this is not the case for everyone. Many people who have the condition have a normal life expectancy.

People with advanced Parkinson's disease may develop a type of cognitive impairment known as Parkinson's dementia. Additionally, people who have Parkinson's disease can develop other types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Cognitive impairment is a risk factor for death in Parkinson's disease.

People who have an age of onset before age 40 have a more than fivefold higher risk of death compared to people of the same age in the general population.


Screening and Early Detection

There is no specific test that can tell in advance whether someone will one day develop Parkinson’s disease. Most of the time, people who develop the condition did not have any early signs in the years before the disease started to cause symptoms. Many people with Parkinson’s disease had a physically active lifestyle before the disease started to have any effects. 

Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed based on a physical examination, which includes a comprehensive neurological examination. Sometimes brain imaging or other tests are ordered to see whether another brain condition, such as a stroke, brain injury, or a tumor, could be causing the symptoms. 

There is no definitive laboratory test or other test to confirm a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. 

Summary 

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that begins in late adulthood, generally after age 65. It has been increasing in prevalence worldwide. This is likely due to rising life expectancy rate throughout the world. The condition affects men more often than women and White Americans more often than Black Americans.

The biological cause of Parkinson’s disease is associated with a decrease in dopamine activity in the brain and degeneration of specific areas of the brain, but a specific trigger for these problems is unknown.

There’s no confirmatory test for Parkinson’s disease. The diagnosis is made based on certain movements and physical features that are detected with a medical physical examination.

Parkinson’s disease has a substantial effect on a person’s quality of life. It doesn’t always cause a decreased life expectancy, but it can cause a shortened life span for people who develop dementia.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is Parkinson’s disease treated?

    Generally, treatment with medications that provide more dopamine or imitate the action of dopamine helps improve the symptoms for a few hours at a time. These treatments are more effective early in the disease course. As the disease progresses, a higher dose is often needed to achieve the same effect, and medication side effects worsen.

  • Is Parkinsonism the same thing as Parkinson’s disease?

    Parkinsonism is not the same thing as Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism is a movement disorder that can have some of the features of Parkinson’s disease, especially tremors and stiffness. Parkinsonism can be caused by medications, head trauma, or a stroke, and it doesn’t usually progressively worsen the way Parkinson’s disease does.

  • Is ALS similar to Parkinson’s disease?

    Because they are both well-known neurological diseases, many people may confuse amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with Parkinson’s disease. However, the two conditions are not similar.

    ALS causes gradually worsening paralysis of the muscles, and it is fatal within a few years after diagnosis. People who have Parkinson’s disease are not paralyzed and usually survive for many years with the disease.

Was this page helpful?
6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Parkinson disease.

  2. Ou Z, Pan J, Tang S, Duan D, Yu D, Nong H, Wang Z. Global trends in the incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability of Parkinson's disease in 204 countries/territories from 1990 to 2019. Front Public Health. 2021;9:776847. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.776847

  3. Marras C, Beck JC, Bower JH, et al. Prevalence of Parkinson's disease across North AmericaNPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2018;4:21. doi:10.1038/s41531-018-0058-0

  4. Wright Willis A, Evanoff BA, Lian M, Criswell SR, Racette BA. Geographic and ethnic variation in Parkinson disease: a population-based study of US Medicare beneficiaries. Neuroepidemiology. 2010;34(3):143-51. doi:10.1159/000275491

  5. Pagano G, Ferrara N, Brooks DJ, Pavese N. Age at onset and Parkinson disease phenotype. Neurology. 2016;86(15):1400-1407. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000002461

  6. Hustad E, Myklebust TÅ, Gulati S, Aasly JO. Increased mortality in young-onset Parkinson's disease. J Mov Disord. 2021;14(3):214-220. doi:10.14802/jmd.21029