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White collar workers have higher risk of death from ALS, Parkinson’s: study

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Atlanta – Workers in higher socioeconomic jobs may face an increased risk of death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using data from the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance system, researchers examined death certificates for more than 12 million adults in 30 states from 1985 to 2011. They organized their findings into 26 occupational categories, which ranged from high-paying management positions to lower-paying work involving transportation and moving materials.

Results showed that workers in “higher socioeconomic status” occupations – including mathematicians, architects, engineers, lawyers and managers – had proportionate mortality ratios significantly above 1.0. According to the analysis, nearly 27,000 ALS deaths and more than 115,000 Parkinson’s deaths occurred during the study period.

“This is kind of an unexpected finding,” John Beard, lead author and NIOSH research officer, said in a July 13 press release. “We see these higher rates of deaths from ALS and Parkinson’s in people with higher socioeconomic status, but we don’t understand the reasons for it. It’s hard to know if these deaths are related to environmental exposure or to socioeconomic status.”

The report states that previous ALS- or Parkinson’s-centered studies have focused on environmental exposure to chemicals that typically are found in lower socioeconomic occupations. The researchers say more research is needed.

The report was published in the July 14 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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