Cause of death? It depends what you do for a living...
- From: "MCP" <gf010w5035@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 30 Oct 2009 05:34:35 -0000
By Andy McSmith
Work can be very bad for your health if you are in the wrong job. If you are
a carpenter, fitter, electrician, plumber or gas fitter, you run an above
average risk of dying from an asbestos-related disease.
If you are coal miner, there an abnormally high chance that you will die of
pneumoconiosis, whereas if you are mining for any mineral other than coal,
or working in a quarry, the risk is that silicosis will kill you.
And publicans, bar staff and kitchen staff, particularly if they are male,
are statistically more likely than other people to be killed by drink.
The new statistics that show how work can kill come from a huge study by a
research team led by Professor David Coggon of Southampton University, who
took data from more than 40,000 death certificates issued during the 1990s
to collate how people died and what jobs they had done in their lifetimes.
However, their research, published yesterday by the Office for National
Statistics comes with a warning not to overinterpret the bald figures. "The
results are purely statistical, which means that they cannot prove a causal
link between an occupation and a disease, proving only evidence of a
statistical association," the study's authors say.
For example, it is a fact that male hairdressers are much more likely than
almost anyone else to die from Aids. But this does not in any case suggest
that cutting hair causes Aids, because the statistics also show that women
hairdressers are less likely than most people to die from the disease. There
are other professional groups that are also at greater than average risk
from Aids, including tailors, dressmakers, nurses, journalists and other
literary and artistic types. Creative people, and people in certain trades
in the construction industry, are also more likely than most to die from
Another mystery, which has shown up previously in statistical surveys of
this kind, is an unusually high death rate from lymphatic cancer among
schoolteachers and university lecturers. There have been serious studies
trying to pinpoint whether there is something in the classroom or a lecture
hall that is silently killing them, but so far, none has been uncovered.
However, one bright statistician has noticed that the same professional
group has a very low death rate from lung cancer or heart disease. By
behaving sensibly, they have seemingly avoided the commonest killers, but
still have to die from something. Hence what the statisticians call the
"spurious consequence" of an unusually high incidence of a different cancer.
The figures also reveal that doctors, dentists, vets, nurses, and women
working in the ambulance service are more likely than most people to commit
suicide. That should not be taken to mean that their work drives them to
despair. What it shows is that when health workers feel suicidal, they have
the know-how to kill themselves, and the means are readily to hand.
The statistics also suggested that if you work behind a bar, or you are a
man working in the construction industry you are unusually likely to be
murdered. For bar staff, that may be a hazard of working among people
fuelled by drink. Among construction workers the cause is not, so far as is
known, the work itself that draws violence.
Statistically, by far the most dangerous thing anyone can do during the
course of their work - perhaps not surprisingly - is drive a car. During the
period covered by the study, about 130 men and five women were killed each
year by accidents at work, and more than 50 of those were in car accidents.
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