Neurological diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s disease may affect higher income employees more often than those working in lower income jobs, according to a recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By the numbers — Researchers evaluated associations between occupation and cause of death in a database of more than 12 million workers in 30 states. They found 14 occupations that had a significantly higher risk for ALS, and 10 occupations that had a higher risk for Parkinson’s.

Those groups primarily included occupation of higher socioeconomic status, such as computers and mathematics; architecture and engineering; education, training and library jobs. More menial jobs such as construction or food service tend to have lower rates of those conditions.

Bottom line — While the number of records considered reduces the risk the findings are due to chance, the study design does not allow firm conclusions to be drawn. Researchers were unable to explain why those occupations might increase the risk for ALS and Parkinson’s, and further study comparing workers within those industries will be needed to identify more specific risk factors. The authors noted a number of limitations including a higher likelihood that Parkinson’s deaths might be misclassified and the broad nature of the occupational categories that might include vastly different types of jobs. In some cases, occupations that have a particularly high or low risk for other causes of deaths might skew the results for ALS and Parkinson’s numbers. For example, mining workers who have a higher risk of death from respiratory issues might not live long enough to develop ALS or Parkinson’s, for which age is a major risk factor.

— Markian Hawryluk, The Bulletin