Professional occupation and the risk of Parkinson's disease

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Abstract

Background and purpose

Creativity in Parkinson's disease (PD) is strongly related to dopaminergic activity and medication. We hypothesized that patients with PD, including those who are in the pre-diagnostic phase of PD, are prone to choose highly structured ‘conventional’ professional occupations and avoid highly creative ‘artistic’ occupations.

Methods

At baseline of the population-based Rotterdam Study, we asked 12 147 individuals aged ≥45 years about their latest occupation and categorized occupations according to the RIASEC model. Participants underwent baseline and follow-up (median 11 years) examinations for PD. We determined associations of artistic (versus any other occupation) and conventional (versus any other occupation) occupations with PD. Additionally, we pooled our results with a recently published case–control study (Radboud Study).

Results

At baseline, conventional occupations were common [n = 4356 (36%)], whereas artistic occupations were rare [n = 137 (1%)]. There were 217 patients with PD, including 91 with prevalent PD and 126 with incident PD. The risk of PD varied substantially across occupational categories (chi-square, 14.61; P = 0.01). The penalized odds ratio (OR) of artistic occupations for PD was 0.19 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.00–1.31; P = 0.11], whereas the OR of conventional occupations for PD was 1.23 (95% CI, 0.95–1.66; P = 0.10). The direction and magnitude of ORs were similar in cross-sectional and longitudinal subsamples. Pooled ORs across the Rotterdam and Radboud Studies were 0.20 (95% CI, 0.08–0.52; P < 0.001) for artistic and 1.23 (95% CI, 0.92–1.67; P = 0.08) for conventional occupations.

Conclusions

The risk of PD varies substantially by choice of professional occupation. Our findings suggest that dopaminergic degeneration affects choice of occupation, which may start in the pre-diagnostic phase of PD.

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