Can anyone get Parkinson's?

Yes, but the risk isn’t the same for everyone.

2 min

Apparent factors for a potentially increased risk ₂,₄

  • Occupational exposure to chemicals (like pesticides) or heavy metals (like mercury)

  • Use of drugs (like cocaine and methamphetamines)

  • Diet high in saturated fats

It's not yet known why people get Parkinson's disease. It develops because nerve cells begin to die in a region of the brain, called the substantia nigra. Parkinson's disease affects more men than women and it's known that factors such as age, exposure to certain substances in the environment and your genes can increase the likelihood of its development 1,2

About 15% of patients who develop Parkinson's disease have a history of the disease in their family. In fact, research has identified changes in certain genes which cause Parkinson's disease that are inherited in these families. Small differences in other genes can also make Parkinson's disease more likely to develop, even if you have no family history of the disease 1,4

Environmental factors that may make Parkinson's disease more likely is a focus of ongoing research. The results of such research can sometimes seem contradictory, but occupational exposure to chemicals such as pesticides or to heavy metals (such as mercury) use of drugs (such as cocaine amphetamine and methamphetamine) or a diet high in saturated fats all seem to be factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease 2,4

There is even some relatively new evidence that the types of bacteria in your gut may be a factor 5

1. Genetics home reference. Parkinson disease. Available at: [Accessed October 2023]
2. National Institute of Environmental Health Science. Parkinson’s disease and environmental factors. Available at: [Accessed October 2023]
3. Poewe W et al. Parkinson disease. Nature Reviews Disease Primers. 2017;3:17013
4. Ball N et al. Front Neurol 2019;10:218. Available at: [Accessed October 2023]
5. Santos SF et al. Front Neurol 2019;10:574. Available at: [Accessed October 2023]


Date of preparation: October 2023