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Mortality inequalities by occupational class among men in Japan, South Korea and eight European countries: a national register-based study, 1990–2015
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    The surprising result of manual workers in Korea enjoying lower mortality than non-manual workers is likely due to numerator-denominator bias
    • Young-Ho Khang, Professor and Chair Department of Health Policy and Management, Seoul National University College of Medicine

    I read with great interest the article by Tanaka and colleagues [1], which examined occupational inequalities in mortality in Korea and reported the surprising result that manual workers in Korea enjoyed lower mortality than non-manual workers. The authors employed unlinked data from Japan and Korea, with population denominators from census data and mortality numerators from death certificates. This type of unlinked data is prone to numerator-denominator bias. A prior Korean study examined the reliability of occupational class between survey and death certificate data using individually linked data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES), clearly showing this possibility [2]. Among 104 deaths of KNHANES participants aged 30-64, the number of deaths among non-manual workers increased from 8 in the survey data to 12 in the death certificate data, while the number of deaths among manual workers decreased from 59 in the survey data to 41 in the death certificate data [2]. The number of deaths in other groups (corresponding to ‘inactive or class unknown’) increased from 37 to 51. Therefore, using unlinked data may result in increased mortality estimates among non-manual workers and other groups and reduced mortality estimates among manual workers [2]. It should be noted that, in Appendix Table 1-2 of the article by Tanaka and colleagues [1], the ‘inactive or class unknown’ group accounted for 44%-51% of total deaths in the most recent 10 years...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.