Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Higher-level occupations may prevent Dementia

A recent study into the causes of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) has discovered that one of the most effective barriers to the illness has been a high level of employment. People such as lawyers and doctors - anyone who could be considered a professional in a specific skill - may actually have a built-up resistance against developing dementia. Carried out at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, this breakthrough into understanding FTD could hold the keys to unlocking more clues about how to combat the illness in future.

FTD, and all of its associated illnesses, typically create a progressive loss of brain cells over time in two parts of the brain; the frontal and temporal regions. This can cause significant issues from sudden behavioral changes to a difficulty in speaking effectively. With 10,000 people diagnosed every year with this illness, it's an illness that affects many; but seemingly not as commonly in those who are engaged in high-end professions.

By being engaged in a job that requires a more strenuous and engaging level of experience every day, there is a belief that we can start to build up a "cognitive reserve". Whilst we all create these reserves in life through our own experiences, those who are involved in more strenuous career paths will usually find that they can create an even more enterprising defence for themselves.

The study itself concentrated on 83 different patients, 34 of which suffered from FTD and 49 of which were confirmed to suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Each patient then had their occupation recorded, and ranked according to information from a U.S. Census categorization. Those who were involved in factory work and service work were ranked in the lowest level, whilst tradesman and sales staff were seen to be in the medium tier. The final tier involved professionals and technical workers like engineers or lawyers.

The study showed that those who suffered from FTD within the highest occupational tier survived an average of nine years from the onset of their symptoms to death. However, the people in the lower group survived three years less on average, with six years. However, those who suffered from Alzheimer's disease did not seem to have a significant change with an average of around eight years across each grouping.

Interestingly, the educational status of each patient was taken too and it showed no real correlation with the results shown. Whilst other factors must come into play alongside career engagement, there is a significant correlation between both; if you are able to stay in a high level of employment it can help to prolong the battle against severe illnesses dementia.