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Income level may affect diabetes risk

Diabetes risk may be higher in people with lower incomes, compared to higher incomes.

Rates of diabetes have grown quickly in the past 10 years, and those rates have been higher in low-income populations. That’s why a research study looked at the income level, age and gender of people with new diabetes diagnoses. It included all diabetes diagnoses in Ontario over the course of one year.

“We found that the risk of diabetes was greater for lower income populations compared to higher ones,” says study author Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe, a scientist with WCRI. “We also found that this gap was most marked in younger populations and in women.”

Increased risks

Diabetes risk increased with age, and men had higher rates of diabetes diagnosis than women. But the effect of income on diabetes diagnosis was strongest in people under age 40, and in women.

Lower income young people had 1.5 times the diabetes risk of wealthier people in the same age group, but the income-related increase in diabetes narrowed in people over 60. However, the pattern was different in women from men: while the income-related gap in diabetes risk narrowed with age in men, that income gap remained wider in women in all age groups.

“It highlights the fact that low income groups are experiencing the greater burden of diabetes,” Dr. Lipscombe says.

Diabetes rates rising

Although diabetes is on the rise in all groups, lower income populations are at relatively greater risk. And once they get diabetes, people with lower incomes tend to have worse health outcomes than patients with higher incomes.

There are several possible reasons why people with low incomes may be at higher risk of diabetes, even in Ontario, which has universal healthcare. People with low incomes may have less access to healthy food, fewer opportunities to exercise or play sports, and may be more likely to be obese.

The study was carried out by researchers from Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto. They used data on all adults (ages 20 and over) who were diagnosed with diabetes in Ontario over the course of a single year (April 2006 to March 2007). The study was published in the medical journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: Feb. 15, 2014

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