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16 April 2018

Mortality in France: report highlights huge disparities among professions

Manual workers have a higher rate of premature death (before the age of 65) than the general population in France, reveals a study published at the start of April by France’s national public health agency (‘Santé publique France’). Malignant tumours play an important role in this high premature death rate among the male working population.

The report highlights the subsector ‘Staff selection and supply’, which mainly involves staff employed by temporary employment agencies, who are at particularly high risk of mortality (relative risk (RR) = 1.75 for general mortality, 1.64 for cancers and 1.46 for cardiovascular diseases).

The other sectors with a high risk of premature death are construction, hotels and restaurants, personal services (laundry/dying, hairdressing, beauty treatments, etc.), and auxiliary transport services [1].

If we look at malignant tumours alone, the construction sector (RR = 1.27), auxiliary transport services (RR = 1.26) and services provided mainly to businesses (RR = 1.17) are most affected. In this last group 68 % of workers are temporary workers.

Working in the building industry significantly increases one’s risk of getting cancer of the larynx (RR = 1.47), of the liver and bile duct (RR = 1.35), and of the respiratory system (RR = 1.33).

Some sectors that employ a high percentage of manual workers are relatively unaffected by high cancer mortality, with the exception of certain situations. Thus, workers in the chemical industry are at high risk of bladder cancer (RR = 1.33), workers in companies manufacturing non-metallic mineral products (asphalt and bituminous products, mineral insulating materials, carbon and graphite fibres, etc.) have a high risk of blood cancer (RR = 1.34), and hotel and restaurant workers have a higher risk than the general population of getting liver and bile duct cancer (RR = 1.32).

The death rate from cardiovascular diseases among manual workers and employees is significantly higher than the rate among managers and highly qualified workers., and the risk is particularly high in the extractive sector. It is no great surprise that the latter is also one of the industries most affected by accidents, just after the building industry.

The report also looks at suicide deaths: these are most frequent in the health and social welfare sector, with a rate of 34 suicides per 100 000 people.

[1] These include auxiliary activities relating to the transport of people or freight, e.g. operation and maintenance of transport infrastructures, freight handling at various stages of transport, and organisation of freight transport.

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