Telephone based cross-sectional study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with Parkinson's disease in Croatia

Valentino Rački1, 2, Eliša Papić1, Mario Hero3, Gloria Rožmarić3, Ena Šukunda4, Vladimira Vuletić1, 2


1 Department of Neurology, Rijeka Clinical Hospital Center, Rijeka, Croatia

2 Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia

3 Faculty of Medicine, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia  

4 Institute of Emergency Medicine of the Primorsko-Goranska County, Croatia


Introduction: The COVID-19 disease pandemic began in December 2019 has completely changed many aspects of human daily life. Studies have shown that older adults and people with comorbidities have poorer outcomes and higher mortality rates. Higher levels of psychological stress can cause worsening of motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease. The main objective of this study was to examine whether social isolation leads to deterioration of physical and mental health in Croatian Parkinson’s disease patients. 

Methods: This descriptive, observational, cross-sectional telephone study involved Parkinson’s disease patients who had at least one control examination at Rijeka University Hospital Center in 2020 and were Croatian citizens. A questionnaire was used to obtain data on the socio-demographic characteristics and the severity of motor, anxiety, depression, and non-motor symptoms.

Results: The final sample included 87 patients. Most patients reported subjective worsening of motor symptoms. Patients who lived alone had worse motor scores than those not living alone. The majority of patients reported worsening of anxiety symptoms, especially in patients who lived alone, had a longer disease duration, and had avoided check-ups. Fewer patients had depression symptoms than motor and anxiety symptoms. Significant worsening of non-motor symptoms was identified in patients who lived alone, were less educated, had a longer disease duration, and had a higher Charlson comorbidity index.

Conclusion: Patients who live alone, have longer disease duration, are less educated, avoid check-ups, and have more comorbidities are more vulnerable to the negative effects of social isolation.