HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Mortality from multiple sclerosis in British military personnel

Article

The death certificates of men aged 20-75 years, who had died between 1979 and 2010, were analysed; 3,688,916 men were identified as having multiple sclerosis, 26,507 of which had the military listed as their last occupation. These findings suggest an elevated proportion of deaths from multiple sclerosis among men in the armed forces.

Abstract

While analysing trends in occupational mortality in England and Wales, we noticed an unexpectedly elevated proportion of deaths from multiple sclerosis (MS) among men in the armed forces. We aimed to document and explore possible explanations for the observed excess. The overall PMR for MS in the armed forces during 1979–2010 was 243 (95% CI 203–288). The excess was apparent in each of three separate decades of study (PMRs, ranging from 220 to 259), and across the entire age range. PMRs for MS were not elevated to the same extent in comparator occupations, nor in any of the main social classes. There was no parallel increase in PMRs for MND. Conclusions These findings suggest that the high proportional mortality from MS in British military personnel is unlikely to have occurred by chance, or as an artefact of the method of investigation. However, the only military cohort study with published results on MS does not support an increased risk. It would be useful to analyse data on MS from other established military cohorts, to check for evidence of a hazard.

Full Reference

Harris, E. C., Palmer, K. T., Cox, V., Darnton, A., Osman, J. and Coggon, D., 2017. Mortality from multiple sclerosis in British military personnel. Occupational Medicine, 67, 6, 448-452.