Which doctors die first?

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7087.1132 (Published 12 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1132

Lower mean age at death in doctors of Indian origin may reflect different age structures

  1. Kay-Tee Khaw, Professora
  1. a Clinical Gerontology Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
  2. b Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's, London W2 1PD
  3. c Department of Medical Microbiology, Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School, London W6 8RP

    Editor—In their analysis of the age at death of doctors in the BMJ's obituary columns D J M Wright and A P Roberts make the classic and fundamental error of inferring risk based solely on cases without denominators.1 They confuse lower mean age of death with earlier mortality; different mean age at death in doctors of Indian origin compared with doctors of United Kingdom origin may, however, simply reflect differing age structures of the two groups. In Great Britain the percentages of the population aged 60-74 years and over 74 years are higher among white people (14% and 7% respectively) than among some other ethnic groups (Indian 6%, 1%; Black African 2%, 1%; Black Caribbean 11%, 1%).2 The corresponding estimated median ages are 37, 29, 27, and 31.2

    The differing age structures may be due to differing birth and mortality rates and, more probably, immigration and migration cohort patterns. The lower proportion of people aged 60 years and over in the Indian and black groups results in lower median or mean age than in white people. Similarly, the lower mean age of death of anaesthetists is difficult to interpret without knowledge of …

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