Reports on mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) complex I (CI) dysfunction in the substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease (PD) support the oxidative stress hypothesis in the neuropathogenesis of PD. Studies in peripheral tissue have found variable decreased CI and occasionally other complex activity suggestive of systemic impairment of MRC function in PD; however, MRC activity may be influenced by numerous variables. We conducted spectrophotometric measurements of MRC function in platelet mitochondrial preparations in 13 individuals with PD and 9 age-matched controls (CON) and have identified additional variables that may affect MRC activity. Mean CI, CIII, CIV, and citrate synthase (CS) activities were similar between PD and CON. CIII and CIV, specific and CS-corrected, activities were significantly positively correlated with CI in combined and individual group data, with the exception of CIII CS-corrected and CIV specific activities in CON and PD, respectively. CIII and CS specific activities were negatively correlated with age in CON, but varied randomly in PD. In PD, CIII specific activity was 1.4-fold higher in those with a history of environmental risk factors for PD and CIV specific activity was lower in those with a positive family history of PD [8.34 ± 0.74 (n = 4) vs. 12.4 ± 1.1 (SEM) min−1 mg−1; p = 0.046]. Group heterogeneity, variables affecting enzyme activity, and intrinsic properties of cells may thus contribute to conflicting data in studies of MRC function in platelets and other tissues.