people at a picnic

How does social connection impact quality of life for Parkinson’s?


This Parkinson Awareness Month, Parkinson Canada is highlighting mental wellness and the mental health realities experienced by those impacted by Parkinson’s. A key contributor to mental wellness is social connection where high levels of social support and participation have been linked to improvements in quality of life. However, a chronic and multifaceted disease like Parkinson’s can sometimes limit a person’s ability to socialize.  

Esztella Vezer is a PhD candidate at the Toronto Metropolitan University studying social connection. Her work is funded by our Graduate Student Award and seeks to understand if high levels of social connection can buffer against the negative effects Parkinson’s symptom progression can have on quality of life. 

Esztella Vezer

Esztella Vezer, PhD candidate at the Toronto Metropolitan University

“In my study we are looking specifically at social participation and social support, which can contribute to a better sense of overall well-being”, says Vezer “Generally, when we are involved in social activities and feel a part of that group, we are more likely to feel good about our lives.”  

According to Vezer, social participation can take many forms. “Social activities can look like a lot of things; it could be family get-togethers, being in a singing group, time spent with a church community, volunteering alongside other people, attending a support group or routinely connecting with friends,” says Vezer. “Similarly, social support generally helps us feel more content with our lives, because we feel we can rely and depend on someone else to be there for us. Social support can look like having someone there to hear us talk about our day or about our feelings, or help us out with errands or other things that we need. In our research, we believe that people with Parkinson’s who live with more severe symptoms may particularly benefit from social participation and social support.”. 

Vezer’s research uses online surveys to ask people with Parkinson’s about their disease severity, social support and participation, and quality of life. As Vezer is especially interested in understanding the effects of social connection in advancing Parkinson’s, using a digital-first approach for her research helps limit barriers to participation for those who cannot travel in-person to a research centre.  

As Vezer explains, “I think it’s exciting that research is looking at more and more ways of understanding Parkinson’s and improving the lives of those who live with it. What draws me to this particular corner of the research world is the idea that there are lots of simple and accessible things that can increase a person’s wellbeing in spite of the challenging symptoms that Parkinson’s can come with. It is my hope that this research demonstrates that a good quality of life can be achieved even without changing the actual symptoms of the condition.” 

Parkinson Canada is pleased to fund and support research that improves the lives of people with Parkinson’s. If you would like to participate in this study on social connection, you can apply here. And as always, you can find other opportunities to participate in research studies like this on our website.