Racial and socioeconomic disparities in parkinsonism

Arch Neurol. 2011 Apr;68(4):498-503. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2010.326. Epub 2010 Dec 13.


Objective: To assess potential racial and socioeconomic disparities in patients with parkinsonism treated at a tertiary Movement Disorders Center.

Methods: Patients with parkinsonism were evaluated for demographics (age, race, annual income, and educational level), medical comorbidities, medication regimen, disability (Older Americans Resources and Services subscale), presence of Parkinson disease, and disease severity (Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale). Disability and disease severity measures were compared by race, income, and educational level using analysis of variance for continuous variables and χ(2) tests for dichotomous variables.

Results: The sample included 1159 patients with parkinsonism (93.4% white, 6.1% African American, 61.2% who earned more than $50,000 annually, 62.7% who completed college, and 79.2% with a diagnosis of Parkinson disease). Cross-sectional analyses by race, income, and educational level showed greater disability and disease severity in African American compared with white patients (African American vs white Older Americans Resources and Services subscale total score, 29.8 vs 25.3, P = .005; Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale total score, 53.0 vs 42.8; P < .001). African Americans were less likely to be prescribed dopaminergic medications, particularly newer agents (African Americans 20.6% vs whites: 41.1%; P = .01). Lower income and lower educational level were independently associated with greater disease severity and disability (P < .003).

Conclusion: Racial and socioeconomic disparities exist among patients with parkinsonism being treated at a tertiary Movement Disorders Center. African Americans and those with lower socioeconomic status have greater disease severity and disability than whites. These disparities may be because of problems in diagnosis, access to care, physician referrals, and patient attitudes regarding the appropriate threshold for seeking treatment at a specialized center. Understanding and correction of these disparities may improve outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / ethnology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / economics*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / ethnology*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / pathology
  • Racial Groups / ethnology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • White People / ethnology*