Dr. Bower explains that the study subjects found to be at risk have anxieties that go beyond common worries about their children's safety or their aging parents' failing health.
"I think it's important to understand that what our study looked at is people with anxious personalities," says Dr. Bower. "These are the chronic worriers -- the people who worry about things that most people don't seem to worry about. Those are the people we're saying have an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease. We did not look at people who are undergoing some acute, stressful life event or people who have very stressful jobs."
They also found that many subjects who later developed parkinsonism were both anxious and pessimistic at the time of personality testing many years before. This observation suggests that pessimism is linked to anxiety, according to Walter Rocca, M.D., Mayo Clinic epidemiologist and another study investigator.
Dr. Bower explains that this study's findings are not proof that anxiety or pessimism causes Parkinson's. Therefore, risk for Parkinson's should not play a leading role in determining whether to seek medical help, he says.
"I think the important thing to remember is that if you are questioning whether you should seek treatment for anxiety, the decision should be made based on your level of anxiety and how it's impacting your life, and not so much on any potential future risk of Parkinson's disease," says Dr. Bower.
This study does not address whether treatment of anxiety or pessimism can help reduce the risk for Parkinson's disease; however, Dr. Bower indicates that this is an important question he and colleagues hope to address in the future.
Dr. Bower and colleagues conducted this study to determine what types of personality or cognitive style -- one's habitual way of perceiving, remembering, behaving and experiencing emotions -- are associated with the development of Parkinson's dise
Contact: Lisa Lucier