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Early Parkinson's Disease Doubles Depression Risk

Insight into Robin Williams' mental health?
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2014 9:11 AM CDT
Early Parkinson's Disease Doubles Depression Risk
FILE - This March 27, 2010 file photo shows actor Robin Williams speaking at The 24th American Cinematheque Awards honoring Matt Damon in Beverly Hills, Calif. Williams, whose free-form comedy and adept impressions dazzled audiences for decades, has died in an apparent suicide. He was 63. The Marin...   (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, File)

(Newser) – A study is linking new cases of Parkinson's to depression and anxiety—shortly after it emerged that Robin Williams was in the early stages of the disease. In a look at 423 patients who'd recently been diagnosed, researchers found that the incidence of depression and anxiety was twice as high among those who'd recently been diagnosed versus the wider population, the BBC reports. Some 14% of patients had depression at the beginning of the study; in healthy subjects, the figure was just 6.6%.

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The number of patients with depression increased slightly over the course of the two-year study, while it decreased a bit among the non-Parkinson's population. A researcher points to both psychological and physical reasons for depression in Parkinson's patients, who, another expert notes, can suffer from depression and anxiety a decade before Parkinson's develops. One issue, a neurology professor told NBC last week, is that the public perception of the illness is "far more grim and dire than reality": "The majority of people with Parkinson’s are walking around without telling anyone. You only see the small fraction who are not doing well." (Read more Parkinson's disease stories.)

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