BACKGROUND: Asia is experiencing a type 2 diabetes epidemic but prevalence differs by ethnicity and level of socio-economic development. Singapore and Mauritius have implemented comprehensive campaigns to address this public health problem. We compared diabetes and obesity prevalence trends among Chinese and South Asians living in Singapore and Mauritius to determine the contribution of ethnicity and economic development to diabetes.
METHODS: Age-specific data from serial national population-based surveys in Singapore and Mauritius between 1987 and 2010 were used to estimate age-standardised diabetes and obesity prevalence. Modified Breslow-Cox Proportional hazard models were used to obtain rate ratios for diabetes risk factors.
RESULTS: In Singapore, the age-standardised prevalence of diabetes remained stable for Chinese (men 14% in 1992 and 13% in 2010; women 12% in 1992 and 10% in 2010); however, increases were observed for South Asians (men 20% in 1992 and 26% in 2010; women 18% in 1992 and 20% in 2010). There were similar patterns in Mauritius. In both countries, obesity prevalence trends were stable for Chinese women, but increased for Chinese men and South Asians. Associations between obesity and diabetes were stronger in Chinese than South Asians irrespective of country.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite different socio-economic settings in Singapore and Mauritius, we observed rising diabetes prevalence among South Asians but stable prevalence in Chinese in both countries. This provides further evidence that ethnicity contributes to the development of diabetes, and that there should be an increased emphasis on future prevention strategies targeting South Asian populations in these countries.