This bulletin examines and compares long-term mortality trends among Australian men aged 20–59 in two broad occupational groups that reflect socioeconomic status. The time period is 1966–2001 and the groups are ‘manual’ and ‘non-manual’.

  • For this 35-year period, mortality rates for manual workers have generally been significantly higher. This applies to all-cause mortality rates and to most major causes of death.
  • Male all-cause mortality rates have been falling steadily since the early 1970s for both non-manual and manual workers, but the absolute difference in rates between the two groups has not narrowed.
  • Therefore, when measured as a gap between the mortality rates, all-cause mortality inequalities among men employed in manual and non-manual occupations have remained unchanged over the period.
  • Inequalities vary according to specific causes of death. In some cases, inequalities are small or insignificant. In other cases, such as ischaemic heart disease, mortality rates of manual workers were once lower than among the non-manual.
  • For each of 17 causes of death examined here, however, mortality rates are now higher among men in manual occupations, significantly so in 13 causes of death.