OBJECTIVES: To assess and compare the prevalence of parkinsonism and Parkinson's disease in five European populations that were surveyed with similar methodology and diagnostic criteria. METHODS: Joint analysis of five community surveys--Gironde (France), eight centres in Italy, Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Girona (Spain), and Pamplona (Spain)--in which subjects were screened in person for parkinsonism. Overall, these surveys comprised 14,636 participants aged 65 years or older. RESULTS: The overall prevalence (per 100 population), age adjusted to the 1991 European standard population, was 2.3 for parkinsonism and 1.6 for Parkinson's disease. The overall prevalence of parkinsonism for the age groups 65 to 69, 70 to 74, 75 to 79, 80 to 84, and 85 to 89 years was respectively, 0.9, 1.5, 3.7, 5.0, and 5.1. The corresponding age specific figures for Parkinson's disease were 0.6, 1.0, 2.7, 3.6, and 3.5. After adjusting for age and sex, the prevalence figures did not differ significantly across studies, except for the French study in which prevalence was lower. Prevalence was similar in men and women. Overall, 24% of the subjects with Parkinson's disease were newly detected through the surveys. CONCLUSIONS: Prevalence of both parkinsonism and Parkinson's disease increased with age, without significant differences between men and women. There was no convincing evidence for differences in prevalence across European countries. A substantial proportion of patients with Parkinson's disease went undetected in the general population.
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