Managers are less likely to have cancer, while shop assistants have a greater chance of suffering back pain and nurses have a higher rate of heart disease, according to a new Australian study.
The survey, which is published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia, analysed the records of more than 4,200 workers aged between 45 and 64 and found that about two-thirds had a medical condition.
It found that older workers with chronic conditions were more likely to be employed in certain industries such as retail, and health and community services, researcher Deborah Schofield said.
"In the retail trade there was a significantly higher risk of musculoskeletal conditions -- so that's things like back injuries, or if you've injured your shoulder or arthritis," she told AFP on Sunday.
"And then cardiovascular disease came out significantly higher in health and community services."
Schofield said that these findings jarred with the expectation that more muscle or bone injuries would be among construction workers or those in the transport, forestry or agriculture sectors where heavy lifting was required.
"But, in fact, the reverse is what we found," she said.
"What we think happens is that retail, being part-time and not too heavy an occupation, that people, if they have those sort of injuries, (it means) they can remain in the workforce," she said.
Interpreting the data regarding cancer was also difficult.
By occupation, the study found that the relative risk of a manager having neoplasms, or cancerous tumours, was found to be 0.25 compared to 0.40 for a tradesperson and 0.74 for labourers.
"We don't know of any reason why they (managers) would be at lower risk as a result of being in that occupation," said Schofield, who is an associate professor at Sydney University,
"What we think is that it may be that if you do have cancer that you're in secure jobs with very good sick leave arrangements so you're in a position to take time out of the workforce if you need to."
Schofield said it was possible that bosses sitting up in their corner offices were less exposed to carcinogens than other workers but this could not be proven.
"So we don't think that you are necessarily, if you're in those jobs, less likely to get cancer. It's possibly more to do with your work arrangements when and if that does happen," she said.
Schofield said it was likely that illness forced people out of jobs, which resulted in lower rates of diseases in some industries.
"This would seem to be the case for occupations such as tradespersons and labourers," which had low levels of all the medical conditions surveyed, she said.