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PARKINSON'S DISEASE AND SPIRITUALITY
  1. Alasdair Coles,
  2. Clare Redfern
  1. University of Cambridge

Abstract

A limited literature suggests that people with Parkinson's disease have reduced religious beliefs, practices and experiences, compared to normal healthy controls. But we reasoned these results may be confounded by reduced mobility and social isolation associated with Parkinson's disease. So, we recruited a cohort of 42 Parkinson's patients and 39 controls with chronic respiratory disease, non-neurological autoimmune disease or rheumatological problems. Each subject was examined twice, 12 months apart and assessed on validated scales of handicap and impairment, with spirituality measured by the modified Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality (BMMRS), an abbreviated Hood Mysticism Scale, and the Cloninger Transcendance Inventory.

As expected, the Parkinson's group showed a greater decline in mobility and cognitive function over 12 months, compared to controls yet their religiosity scores were undiminished. Quantitative analysis showed significantly increased positive spiritual experiences in the Parkinson's group (p=0.04) relative to controls. “Religious support”, a proxy for involvement in a religious community, was maintained despite decreasing mobility. Qualitative accounts indicated that faith and spirituality were maintained in those patients with PD for whom it was important at baseline. We identified no aspect of faith that was reduced by degeneration of basal ganglia pathways.

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