Diabetes mellitus prevalence is increasing in South Asians but is stable in Chinese living in Singapore and Mauritius

Kristin H.X. Tan, Elizabeth L.M. Barr, Vira Koshkina, Stefan Ma, Sudhir Kowlessur, Dianna J. Magliano, Stefan Söderberg, Kee Seng Chia, Paul Zimmet, Wei Yen Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Asia is experiencing a type 2 diabetes epidemic, but prevalence differs by ethnicity and level of socioeconomic 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-standardized 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-standardized prevalence of diabetes remained stable for Chinese (men: 14% in 1992, 13% in 2010; women: 12% in 1992, 10% in 2010), but increases were observed for South Asians (men: 20% in 1992, 26% in 2010; women: 18% in 1992, 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 regardless of country. 
Conclusions: Despite different socioeconomic 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-864
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Diabetes
Issue number9
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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