• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 11:29pm
NewsChina
HEALTH

Mystery as hundreds of young Chinese workers are dying in their sleep

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 5:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 5:16pm
 

The number of young male workers with no history of health problems who died suddenly in their sleep has risen sharply over the past decade in the manufacturing hub Dongguan, research shows.

The city's police recorded 893 cases of sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome from January 2001 to October last year.

It is a more than triple the 231 cases recorded from January 1990 to December 1999.

The sharp increase came to light after researchers at Zhongshan School of Medicine based in Guangzhou released their analysis of police records of deaths in Dongguan over the past two decades, the official Guangzhou Daily reported.

The syndrome covers the deaths in their sleep of otherwise healthy adults with autopsies revealing no potentially fatal disease or injury. The men who died usually experienced an abrupt difficulty in breathing before death, the school's studies into the syndrome said, but the cause remained unclear.

The syndrome is mostly noted in the Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The newspaper reported that it first drew the attention of mainland medical scholars when an increasing number of migrant workers in Dongguan were reported to have died suddenly in their sleep in the 1990s.

The recent analysis of cases in Dongguan revealed a similar pattern to international studies, suggesting that young male manual labourers were at greatest risk.

More than 90 per cent of victims in Dongguan were manual labourers, the newspaper quoted the analysis as saying.

It said that long working hours as well as poor sanitation and ventilation in their living and working spaces might have put the workers at higher risk. Workers' rights groups in Guangdong have long been concerned about the sudden deaths of migrant workers, which they believed were caused by overwork, according to Zeng Feiyang, the director of the Guangdong Panyu Migrant Worker Centre in Guangzhou.

"It is especially hard to help the victims get compensation since the concept of overwork has not been recognised by Chinese law," said Zeng.

"Factories owners could easily argue against the accusation, saying the victim's colleagues were working for the same number of hours a day healthily."

The analysis found people aged 20 to 40, usually the breadwinners under heavy pressure, were at highest risk.

More than 80 per cent of the 328 people who died during 2001 and 2006, for instance, were aged between 21 and 40. More than nine out of every 10 victims were male, according to the analysis.

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6

This article is now closed to comments

Paradox314
What was the actual cause of death in these cases?
Brit_in_China
I have a factory in China and have 55 sleeping in company dormitories. This article is of course of great concern to me. Please read: ****en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_unexpected_death_syndrome
So the question is what is the statistical difference of the reported number of deaths of factory-workers in company dormitories; compared to factory-workers living in their own apartments; compared to farmers/office workers or unemployed living in their normal conditions at home?
Articles like this leave too many questions unanswered. @Andrea Chen: we need more detailed investigation to make this article of use to practitioners.
mansangchow
Sudden unexpected death syndrome is caused by irregular heart rhythms and ventricular fibrillation. The victim can survive the cardiac episode if the heart's rhythm goes back to normal.
norodnik
I'm always bored to death when I'm in Dongguan.
53cea049-226c-4672-853a-74270a320969
On the bright side, it's a blessed way to die... and besides, it can be seen as a release from this modern day slavery.
andreaswagner
Too much whoring around most probably.

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