Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyParkinsonsTeam

Why Are Men More Likely To Develop Parkinson’s?

Posted on December 06, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Amit M. Shelat, D.O.
Article written by
Samantha Eck, Ph.D.

Parkinson’s disease can affect people of any sex or gender. However, male biological sex is a risk factor for Parkinson’s, with the relative risk of developing the condition being about 1.5 times greater in men than women. There are also sex differences in symptom presentation.

The reasons for sex-related disparities in Parkinson’s rates and presentation are currently not well understood. However, research points to both biological and environmental factors that may help explain why men have greater susceptibility to develop Parkinson’s compared to women.

Parkinson’s Risk Factors

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. Biological sex and environmental factors are both believed to contribute to the sex difference in the risk of developing the disease.

Risk Associated With Biological Sex

There is evidence that estrogen may have protective effects against the development of Parkinson’s disease. Estrogen is a female sex hormone that also acts as a signaling molecule within the brain. A signaling molecule sends information between cells. While all people naturally produce and use estrogen, women tend to have higher levels of estrogen than men. These higher levels of estrogen may offer some protection and contribute to the lower risk of Parkinson’s.

Higher lifetime estrogen exposure has been linked to reduced probability of developing Parkinson’s. Also, observational studies show that while women overall are less likely to develop Parkinson’s compared to men, the incidence of Parkinson’s in post-menopausal women is about the same as in men. This may be due to the reduced estrogen levels in this group.

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the death of dopamine neurons within an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. These neurons are crucial for motor control, and their death underlies the loss of muscle control in people with Parkinson’s. Estrogens are well known to enhance the brain’s ability to produce dopamine and use it as a signaling molecule. This enhancement of dopamine signaling may counteract the development of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Estrogen may also help protect against Parkinson’s by preventing dopamine neuron death.

In rodent models of Parkinson’s, researchers have administered a drug that kills dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra to mimic Parkinson’s symptoms. Administration of estrogen protects dopamine neurons from this drug-induced cell death. The protective effect of estrogens on dopamine neurons within the substantia nigra may also contribute to the reduced risk of Parkinson’s in women.

Risk Associated With Environmental Factors

Lifetime exposure to heavy metals or certain pesticides has been linked to increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. Some types of jobs — like farming, woodworking, or metalworking — can lead to more exposure to these materials. People who work these jobs, therefore, may be at a higher risk for Parkinson’s. Some suggest that the higher prevalence of men working in these occupations may contribute to the greater risk of Parkinson’s disease in men compared to women.

Head trauma has also been linked to increased risk for Parkinson’s disease. A higher incidence of head injuries in men compared to women may also contribute to increased Parkinson’s risk.

Biological Sex Differences in Symptom Presentation

There is a large amount of variability in how people develop Parkinson’s. Men and women on average tend to exhibit different symptoms of Parkinson’s, with different levels of severity. Some studies report that women are more likely than men to exhibit the following nonmotor symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Restless legs
  • Depression
  • Weight change
  • Constipation
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Pain
  • Excessive sweating

Men with Parkinson’s disease are more likely than women to present with impairments in cognition. These impairments could include deficits in attention and working memory, as well as changes in impulse control.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyParkinsonsTeam is the social network for people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones. On MyParkinsonsTeam, more than 80,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with Parkinson’s.

Are you living with Parkinson’s? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Amit M. Shelat, D.O. is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Physicians. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Samantha Eck, Ph.D. has been conducting behavioral neuroscience research since 2014 and earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Temple University. Learn more about her here.

Recent articles

There are many different symptoms of Parkinson’s, and everyone experiences the disease...

Cold Weather and Parkinson’s Symptoms

There are many different symptoms of Parkinson’s, and everyone experiences the disease...
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with genetic and environmental risk factors. Among these...

Traumatic Brain Injuries and the Risk for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with genetic and environmental risk factors. Among these...
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that currently affects approximately 1...

Parkinson’s and Ethnicity: Is Race a Risk Factor?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that currently affects approximately 1...
Treatments for Parkinson’s disease are given to help treat the disease or manage symptoms. While...

Side Effects of Parkinson’s Treatment

Treatments for Parkinson’s disease are given to help treat the disease or manage symptoms. While...
A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis is a life-changing event that can alter the way you think about...

Medical Power of Attorney and Parkinson’s Disease

A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis is a life-changing event that can alter the way you think about...
Vitamins play an essential role in everyone’s everyday lives. They are critical for each of us to...

Do Vitamin Deficiencies Raise Your Risk for Parkinson's?

Vitamins play an essential role in everyone’s everyday lives. They are critical for each of us to...
Most respondents of a recent MyParkinsonsTeam survey about Parkinson’s disease (PD) said fatigue...

Survey: MyParkinsonsTeam Members Share Symptoms That Affect Daily Living

Most respondents of a recent MyParkinsonsTeam survey about Parkinson’s disease (PD) said fatigue...
More than 1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease...

Air Pollution and the Risk of Developing Parkinson’s

More than 1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease...
Tremors are one of the major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) for many people living with the...

Parkinson’s Tremors: Causes, Types, and Treatments

Tremors are one of the major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) for many people living with the...
As people age, their risk of falling increases. However, people with Parkinson’s disease...

Improving Balance Issues and Preventing Falls in Parkinson’s

As people age, their risk of falling increases. However, people with Parkinson’s disease...
MyParkinsonsTeam My Parkinson's disease Team

Thank you for signing up.

Want more content, community, and support from others living with Parkinson's disease?

Join MyParkinsonsTeam

close