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Archive for November, 2010

The November issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine contains a report concerning mortality among NASA’s astronauts, surely one of the most unique of occupational cohorts!

The article examined astronaut mortality in relation to several different general population groups and calculated Standardized Mortality Ratios (SMR) to compare their mortality experiences between 1980 and 2009. The SMR divides the number of observed deaths by the number of expected deaths were the astronauts subject to the same mortality as the comparison group.

Astronaut deaths to date can be grouped into three broad categories: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and fatal accidents.  Astronauts are at greatly decreased risk of death by cardiovascular causes, with an SMR of only 27 (95% CI = 9-63). Their risk of cancer is substantially reduced as well, with an SMR of 47 (95% CI = 19-97). Their risk of fatal accidents, however, is almost 6 times that of the general population, with an SMR of 574 (95% CI 335-919). While quite high, this is actually a reduction in risk from that seen in the period 1959-1991, where the SMR was 1346 in comparison to the general population, and the risk of fatal accidents among astronauts was 23 times as high as civil servant employees at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Thanks to improvements in the cause-specific SMR from 1980 to 2009, the all-cause SMR is now below 100 for the first time — SMR = 54 (95% CI = 37-77) — making the profession of astronaut better than ever.

For the full story, check out the article:

Reynolds RJ, Day SM (2010). Mortality Among NASA Astronauts: 1980-2009. Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, 81: 1024-1027.

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