Epidemiology of sudden unexpected death syndrome among Thai migrant workers in Singapore

Int J Epidemiol. 1993 Feb;22(1):88-95. doi: 10.1093/ije/22.1.88.


A total of 235 cases of sudden unexpected death syndrome (SUDS) among apparently healthy male Thai migrant workers in Singapore were reported between 1982 and 1990. Most of the deaths occurred during sleep and 13% were not sleep-related. The median age at the time of death was 33 years and the median interval between arrival and death was 8 months. These deaths occurred singly and sporadically throughout the year. Post-mortem examination revealed few abnormal findings except for haemorrhagic congestion or oedema of the lungs. There were moderate to severe intra-alveolar haemorrhages with some evidence of myocarditis or pneumonitis. Preliminary findings of serial sections of the hearts indicate evidence of anomalies in the cardiac conduction system. Epidemiological investigations showed that a family history of similar deaths and serological evidence of current or recent infection with Pseudomonas pseudomallei were significantly associated with SUDS. Extensive biochemical and toxicological investigations were inconclusive. There was no evidence of chronic deficiency in thiamine or potassium among the healthy Thai workers living and working in the same conditions as the cases, and no significant abnormalities were detected on electrocardiographic examination. As these migrant workers experienced various psychosocial problems which could stem from maladjustment to an urban environment, separation from the family, burden of debts and long hours of work, stress could be a precipitating factor for SUDS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety, Separation
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Physiological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Thailand / ethnology
  • Transients and Migrants*