In Australia in 2014 it was estimated to be at least 70,000 people people living with Parkinson's, more recent research indicates that the figure may be closer to 110,000 or around 1 in every 224 people. We don't actually know the real figure as there is no database for people who are diagnosed. We estimate the figures based on epidemiological research (epidemiology is the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why). In 2014 it was estimated that 11,500 people were diagnosed with Parkinson's that year. We do know that the number of cases is growing at around 4% per year compared with population growth of 1%.
Men get Parkinson's at about 1.5 times the rate that women do; however, because women generally live longer than men we have close to a 50/50 male to female ratio of people living with Parkinson's (men are 53% of the Parkinson's population).
The biggest risk factor for Parkinson's is age, as you get older the risk of getting Parkinson's increases. At age 65 there the incidence, or probability that you will diagnosed with Parkinson's, is 1:1000, this increases to 1:100 when you hit 75 years of age. Whilst age is the biggest risk there are around 20% of our community who are below the age of 65.
The average age of diagnosis varies from study to study but it is probably around the age of 60. At diagnosis it has been estimated that 70-80% of the neurons (brain cells) will have already been lost so it is likely that people have had Parkinson's for some time, some think it may be years or decades.
There is conflicting studies around whether there are differences in Parkinson's numbers based on race; however, the exact relationship, if any, between race and risk of Parkinson's remains unknown. In Australia race and ethnicity do not appear to be significant risk factor for Parkinson's.
We do know that some rural areas have a higher incidence of Parkinson's but it is not entirely clear why this is the case, some think that higher levels of pesticides/herbicides may be a risk factor .
The bottom-line is that Parkinson's is not a discriminator, anyone can get Parkinson's regardless of who they are, how well they are educated, what they have done during there lives or where they live.
For more information on Parkinson's ring our fee info line on 1800 644 189 to talk to you State Parkinson's organisation or see www.parkinsons.org.au/information-sheets