Parkinson’s Disease Death Rates Have Spiked In Recent Years: Study

Previous studies have indicated genetics plays only a small factor, and look toward environmental causes of Parkinson's disease, like exposure to Paraquat and other pesticides

The findings of a new study suggest that the mortality rate linked to Parkinson’s disease has significantly increased over the last 20 years, with nearly half a million deaths linked to the progressive neurological disorder between 1999 and 2019.

In a report published late last month in the medical journal Neurology, researchers with the University of Iowa indicate that there was a 2.4% annual average increase in Parkinson’s disease deaths over the two decades, with the highest rates among white men.

Parkinson’s disease is a nervous system disorder that grows progressively worse over time, resulting in tremors and movement problems, for which there is no known cure.

While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, growing research has found that genes are only believed to be associated with about one-in-ten cases. Exposure to herbicides and pesticides are increasingly considered a leading risk, especially when combined with other factors that place individuals at risk of the development of Parkinson’s.

In recent years, much of the focus on the link between Parkinson’s disease and pesticides has involved concerns about exposure to the weed killer Paraquat, which has been banned in several countries, but remains widely used on farmland throughout the United States.

Over the past year, a growing number of Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits have now been filed in courts throughout the U.S., each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers failed to warn users, even licensed and trained Paraquat applicators, about the risks of Parkinson’s disease. Many suggest this was in order to keep the already controversial weed killer on the market and thus expand the manufacturers’ profits at the expense of the health of consumers.

In this latest study on Parkinson’s disease death rates, researchers used data from the National Vital Statistics System to assess the national trends, looking at age, sex, race and ethnicity, as well as urban or rural geographic locations between 1999 to 2019.

According to the findings, there were 479,059 Parkinson’s disease deaths during that time period, with the mortality rate increasing from 5.4 per 100,000 people in 1999, to 8.8 per 100,000 in 2019. The researchers found an average annual percentage increase in Parkinson’s disease mortality of 2.4%.

In addition, the researchers found significant differences in the sex and race of those dying of the nervous system disorder, with death rates twice as high among men than women, and higher among whites than other ethnic groups. However, the overall increases in Parkinson’s disease deaths were across the board, the researchers reported.

The researchers did not give a reason for the increased Parkinson’s disease mortality rates.

“From 1999 to 2019, the mortality from PD in the United States has increased significantly,” the researchers concluded. “The increase was regardless of age, sex, race/ethnicity, urban-rural classification and geographic location. A comprehensive evaluation of long-term trends in PD mortality is important for health care priority setting.”

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