The goal of this study was to assess whether diabetes prevalence varies by countries at different economic levels and whether this can be explained by known risk factors.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The prevalence of diabetes, defined as self-reported or fasting glycemia ≥7 mmol/L, was documented in 119,666 adults from three high-income (HIC), seven upper-middle-income (UMIC), four lower-middle-income (LMIC), and four low-income (LIC) countries. Relationships between diabetes and its risk factors within these country groupings were assessed using multivariable analyses.
Age- and sex-adjusted diabetes prevalences were highest in the poorer countries and lowest in the wealthiest countries (LIC 12.3%, UMIC 11.1%, LMIC 8.7%, and HIC 6.6%; P < 0.0001). In the overall population, diabetes risk was higher with a 5-year increase in age (odds ratio 1.29 [95% CI 1.28–1.31]), male sex (1.19 [1.13–1.25]), urban residency (1.24 [1.11–1.38]), low versus high education level (1.10 [1.02–1.19]), low versus high physical activity (1.28 [1.20–1.38]), family history of diabetes (3.15 [3.00–3.31]), higher waist-to-hip ratio (highest vs. lowest quartile; 3.63 [3.33–3.96]), and BMI (≥35 vs. <25 kg/m2; 2.76 [2.52–3.03]). The relationship between diabetes prevalence and both BMI and family history of diabetes differed in higher- versus lower-income country groups (P for interaction < 0.0001). After adjustment for all risk factors and ethnicity, diabetes prevalences continued to show a gradient (LIC 14.0%, LMIC 10.1%, UMIC 10.9%, and HIC 5.6%).
Conventional risk factors do not fully account for the higher prevalence of diabetes in LIC countries. These findings suggest that other factors are responsible for the higher prevalence of diabetes in LIC countries.