Is there anything more trite than hypochondriac doctors? We actively try to avoid such behavior. But while we were busy patting ourselves on the back about how education protects against Alzheimer’s, others were giving us something new to worry about: Parkinson’s Disease:
The researchers examined the medical records of everyone in Olmsted County, Minnesota, who developed Parkinson’s from 1976 to 1995. Olmsted County is the home of the Mayo Clinic, where the research was based.
Among different occupations, physicians were most at risk among the general population. People in active, manual jobs such as construction and factory workers had the lowest risk. No clear explanation for the trend has yet been found.
The study authors, doctors themselves, warned of the distinction between correlation and causation:
Fellow researcher Dr Demetrius Maraganore said: “We really can’t say from this study that education and occupation are causal factors in Parkinson’s disease, we can only say that they are associated.
“I don’t think that schooling or wearing a stethoscope causes brain cells to degenerate or that digging holes with a digger protects your brain cells from atrophy, but I think that these are indirect indicators of factors that may relate to brain degeneration. And now what we need to do is use these clues to try and identify those molecular level events that differentiate these people.
“Really, nobody should do anything differently based on these findings. These findings are not at all intended to change anybody’s behaviour. I think that the bottom line is that we’re talking about going from a baseline risk of 2% percent to develop Parkinson’s disease during a lifetime to a risk of 4% if you are highly educated or a physician, or 1% if you are less educated or more physically active.”
Maybe, if anything, this gives indirect credence to the idea of a Parkinson’s virus — something that physicians may be more likely to catch.