Blue collar means early grave

Monday, 11 July, 2005

Manual workers are more likely to die young than non-manual workers, a new study has found, but the difference is unlikely to be due to the actual features of their employment.

The study, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, examined long-term mortality trends among Australian men aged 20-59 (data for women was unavailable). It found that between 1966 and 2001, overall mortality rates fell steadily. But, the gap between rates for manual workers and non-manual workers did not narrow.

For men in non-manual work, mortality declined from 390 deaths per 100,000 population in 1966 to 160 in 2001 - a decline of 59%. For men in manual occupations, mortality declined from 450 deaths per 100,000 in 1966 to 250 per 100,000 - a decline of 44%. The study examined 17 causes of death, and found that for all of them, mortality rates were higher for men in manual occupations, and significantly so in 13 causes.

It noted in particular that the most common cause of death in Australia - ischaemic heart disease (IHD) used to be significantly higher among males in non-manual occupations, but has been overtaken by mortality among males in manual work. IHD mortality rates have declined substantially for both groups, but generally more so among non-manual workers. Death rates from lung disease were 40% higher among manual workers in 1981, whereas in 2001 they were 90% higher.

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