In a shocking revelation, researchers from the Mayo Clinic, in Olmsted County, Minnesota, suggest that Parkinson's disease is more likely to strike the highly-educated than manual workers, meaning that an individual's educational and career paths impact Parkinson's disease risk later in life.
The researchers said that probably early Parkinson's triggered a desire to spend a lot of time studying, rather than long periods of education increasing susceptibility to the condition.
Their study findings appear in Nov. 22 issue of the journal Neurology , the official scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The researchers examined the medical records of everyone in Olmsted County who developed Parkinson's from 1976 to 1995. The authors collected information about education and occupations using two independent sources of data: a review of the complete medical records in the system and a telephone interview.
They found that people who had studied for nine years or longer had the highest risk of developing Parkinson's. The degree of risk was seen to rise with additional years of schooling.
Among a range of occupations, physicians were most at risk of contracting the debilitating condition, while 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, but based on previous Parkinson's research, which shows that regular exercise can protect against the disease, and slow its onset, researchers theorize that the risk of Parkinson's may be higher in people with sedentary occupations.
These findings suggest a link between education and occupation and the risk of Parkinson's. But the researchers warn that the results should be treated with caution. While they reflected an association, this did not necessarily mean there was a causal connection.