Putting “Work” Back in Working-Aged Mortality: Occupation and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Contemporary Working-Aged U.S. Adults

Iliya Gutin , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Robert Hummer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The recent increase in U.S. mortality has been termed a “working-class” crisis, concentrated among blue-collar and unemployed workers; yet occupation is underrepresented in contemporary research on adult mortality. Individuals’ occupations reflect life chances, including lower versus higher risk for premature death. This study uses restricted-use National Health Interview Survey-Linked Mortality Files (1997-2015) to examine the relationship between individuals’ occupations and working-age cause-specific mortality. Results show that service, blue-collar, and transport workers have significantly higher mortality risk than their professional counterparts, although there is variation across causes. Education attenuates these associations, but overall patterns are unchanged. The unemployed and those not in the labor force also have higher mortality risk than those in professional occupations, especially for poisonings and alcoholic liver disease. In conclusion, occupation is a crucial pathway through which education affects mortality, but we also emphasize growth of precarious labor as an important factor for working-aged mortality risk.

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 Presented in Session 22. Deaths and Diseases of Despair