Jobs and Degenerative Disease

Hey, I thought using your brain helped stave off Alzheimers!

Many of the associations had been seen in earlier research and could potentially be explained by on-the-job exposures to the chemicals that farmers, welders and hairdressers routinely use or inhale.

Other findings, however, such as the elevated disease risks among teachers, clergy and bank tellers, are not easily explained, according to the researchers, led by Robert M. Park of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio.

In their analysis, Park and his colleagues found that the bank tellers, clergy, aircraft mechanics and hairdressers had highest odds of dying from Alzheimer’s disease. For Parkinson’s disease, the highest risks were among biological scientists, teachers, clergy members and other religious workers.

The risk of death from presenile dementia — a form of dementia that arises before the age of 65 — was greatest among dentists, graders and sorters in industries other than agriculture and, again, clergy.

Veterinarians, hairdressers and graders and sorters had the highest risks of dying from motor neuron disease, the most common form of which is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — an invariably fatal degeneration of the central nervous system that causes muscle wasting and paralysis.

So, how valid is this study?

Studies such as this, where death certificates are used to find associations between occupation and disease risk, have their limits. For one, death records are a less-than-ideal measure of a person’s work history, Park told Reuters Health.

“At best,” he noted, such research can tease out general patterns that can then be studied further.

Does it count if you do several different jobs across time? What if I’m mostly a mom? In that case, is it only temporary insanity?