More diabetes among overseas-born Australians

Around 35% of Australians who reported having diabetes in 2001 were born overseas, according to a bulletin released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Approximately 28% of the Australian population is overseas-born.

The AIHW bulletin, A Picture of Diabetes in Overseas-born Australians, shows that the overseas-born Australians at highest risk of diabetes are those born in the South Pacific, Middle East/North Africa, Southern Asia and Southern Europe.

According to the latest available data, the South Pacific Islander group had the highest hospitalisation and death rates for diabetes, at well over twice the rates for people born in Australia. People born in the Middle East and North Africa were the next highest group.

Diabetes prevalence rates were correspondingly high for the Middle Eastern /North African group. Men born in the Middle East and North Africa had a diabetes prevalence rate 3.6 times that of Australian-born men. The corresponding ratio for women was 2.4.

Report co-author, Anne-Marie Waters, said the overall findings revealed some surprises.

'Proportionally more overseas-born people have diabetes, yet other research conducted by the Institute has shown that immigrants tend to live healthier lives than their Australian-born counterparts, reflecting the "healthy migrant effect"-where people in good health are more likely to migrate than others. This is further reinforced by Australia's health requirements for migrants.'

'The fact that some groups of overseas-born Australians appear to be at a higher risk of diabetes than other people within the community might be explained by a combination of biological and genetic risk factors, changing lifestyle after migration, or socioeconomic status.'

The bulletin shows that prevalence, hospitalisation and death rates are not always consistent across all groups of overseas-born Australians.

'Men born in the UK and Ireland, for example, had diabetes prevalence rates at least 17% higher than Australian-born men-but had 21% fewer hospitalisations, and 13% fewer deaths from the disease than Australian-born men', Ms Waters said.

'In contrast, men born in Southern and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, had lower diabetes prevalence rates than Australian-born men, but higher hospitalisation and death rates.'

23 October 2003


Further information: Anne-Marie Waters, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1102
Lynelle Moon, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1235
George Phillips, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1246
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032