In discussing the significance of SUDS cases, CDC investigators note that they "may constitute a new syndrome" because of the differences in the epidemiological pattern between these cases and other victims of sudden death. The quickness of the deaths is unusual, and there is a lack of any ascribed cause after extensive postmortem investigation.

The etiology of SUDS remains unknown. In 1982 researchers at the CDC performed a case control study using the first 26 cases of SUDS among Hmong and Laotians in the United States. Results were meager. No single variable was found that differentiated cases from controls. The victims tended to have been in the country less than 6 months, to have left Laos less than 3 years earlier, to have spent a greater proportion of their income on housing, and to have acquired fewer possessions in the United States than had other immigrants. Although cases had similar amounts of English training, they had less job training. Cases had gained weight less frequently than controls and lost weight more frequently. The authors of the study concluded that factors that enhance emotional stress or result from such stress are a "possible precipitating element in these deaths."

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