Age specific standardised mortality ratios (ASMRs) were compared for commercial fishermen under 55 years old and those who were aged 55 and older in the Canadian Atlantic coastal provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The subjects were a cohort of 31,415 fishermen licensed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans during 1975-83. Mortality was obtained by a computerised linking of the registry of licensed commercial fisheries and the Canadian Mortality Data Base. Fishermen under 55 had ASMRs between 1.4 and 1.7 for death from all causes and around 1.0 for death from non-accidental causes. The older fishermen had ASMRs as low as 0.6 for all causes and non-accidental causes. The same pattern was shown for death from specific causes such as ischaemic heart disease, accidents, and cancer, as well as for different years of entry into the cohort. This pattern differed widely from that of most other occupations. Dividing the cohort into owners and crew members showed that the high mortality ratios at younger ages existed in crew members only. It was concluded that the high death rates for fishermen under 55 had a socioeconomic component.
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