The Nun Study and Alzheimer’s disease: Quality of vocation as a potential protective factor?

This paper uses data from the Nun Study; an ongoing longitudinal epidemiological study that began in 1986, in America. Over 900 nuns have agreed to undertake regular psychometric testing and to donate their brains post-mortem for autopsy. Keohane and Balfe (2017) consider the data in terms of Max Weber’s concept of ‘beruf’ or calling. While acknowledging that other factors may also be at play, the authors posit that vocation may offer some protection against dementia. Some of the nuns who died had significant biological symptoms post mortem but had appeared to be functioning quite highly before death. Research has already established that education and occupation may offer some protection and the authors suggest that an intense vocation coupled with complex intellectual activities and the social support found in such a cohesive community may facilitate development of active brain reserve against dementia. They discuss the loss of vocation in modern society and the possibility that we are moving towards “a new wave of dementiagenic currents.”
Title: 
The Nun Study and Alzheimer’s disease: Quality of vocation as a potential protective factor?
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Date: 
2017
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References: 
Keohane, K. and Balfe, M., 2017. The Nun Study and Alzheimer’s disease: Quality of vocation as a potential protective factor?. Dementia, p.1471301217725186.