Predictors of stress resilience in Parkinson's disease and associations with symptom progression

NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2024 Apr 11;10(1):81. doi: 10.1038/s41531-024-00692-4.


People with Parkinson's disease (PD) are sensitive to effects of long-term stress, but might differ in stress resilience, i.e. the ability to maintain mental health despite adversity. It is unclear whether stress resilience in PD is predominantly determined by dopamine deficiency, psychosocial factors, or both. In PD animal models, chronic stressors accelerate disease progression, but evidence in humans is lacking. Our objectives were to (1) distinguish stressor-reactive from resilient PD patients, (2) identify resilience factors, and (3) compare symptom progression between stressor-reactive and resilient patients. We conducted a longitudinal survey in Personalized Parkinson Project participants (N = 350 PD). We used the COVID-19 pandemic as a model of a stressor, aligned in time for the entire cohort. COVID-19-related stressors, perceived stress, and PD symptoms were assessed at 11 timepoints (April-October 2020). Both pre-COVID and in-COVID clinical assessments were available. We quantified stressor-reactivity as the residual between actual and predicted perceived stress relative to COVID-19-related stressors, and modeled trajectories of stressor-reactivity across timepoints. We explored pre-COVID predictors of 6-month average stressor-reactivity, and tested whether stressor-reactivity was prospectively associated with one-year clinical progression rates. Latent class trajectory models distinguished patients with high (N = 123) or low (N = 227) stressor-reactivity. Pre-existing anxiety, rumination and non-motor symptom severity predicted high stressor-reactivity (risk factors), whereas quality of life, social support, positive appraisal style and cognitive abilities predicted low stressor-reactivity (resilience factors). PD-specific factors, e.g. disease duration, motor severity, and levodopa use, did not predict stressor-reactivity. The COVID-19 pandemic did not accelerate disease progression, but worsened depressive symptoms in stressor-reactive PD patients.