Higher occupational attainment linked to longer survival in frontotemporal dementia

Posted on 22nd April 2015

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that higher occupational attainment is associated with a longer survival from symptom onset in people with frontotemporal dementia. This study is published on 22 April in the journal American Academy of Neurology.

Frontotemporal dementia is a rare form of dementia, but is the second most common form of dementia in people under the age of 65 in the UK. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, where the primary symptoms are related to memory and thinking decline, people with frontotemporal dementia tend to show behavioural and personality changes, as well as a decline in language abilities.

The team from the University of Pennsylvania looked at brain tissue donated from 34 and 49 frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients respectively. The researchers examined medical records and demographic features such as sex, age at symptom onset and age at death. The team also collected data on education level and primary occupation. Primary occupation was classified and ranked based on US census categories, and patients with similar demographic backgrounds and clinical history records were used in their analyses.

In the study, the researchers found that patients with frontotemporal dementia and a high occupational attainment (such as professional and technical workers) had a longer survival time from symptom onset compared to those with a lower occupational attainment (such as operative and service workers). In contrast, the results for Alzheimer’s disease patients suggested that those with a low occupational attainment may have a slightly increased survival time than those with more demanding jobs.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“This small study adds to growing evidence about factors from life that could influence brain health as we age. Keeping the brain active throughout life could be helpful and different types of work may play a role, but from this study we cannot conclude that occupation has a direct influence on survival time in frontotemporal dementia. The researchers did not account for other factors which may have influenced survival time, and the findings were subtle. Follow-up studies are required to gain a clearer picture of whether occupational attainment may influence survival time in people with dementia.”

Posted in Science news