High prevalence rates of diabetes and hypertension among refugee psychiatric patients

Kinzie JD, Riley C, McFarland B, Hayes M, Boehnlein J, Leung P, Adams G. Published in the Journal of Nervous & Mental Disorders, Feb 2008.

There is increasing evidence that immigrants and traumatized individuals have elevated prevalence of medical disease. This study focuses on 459 Vietnamese, Cambodian, Somali, and Bosnian refugee psychiatric patients to determine the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. The prevalence of hypertension was 42% and of diabetes was 15.5%. This was significantly higher than the US norms, especially in the groups younger than 65. Diabetes and hypertension were higher in the high-trauma versus low-trauma groups. However, in the subsample with body mass index (BMI) measurements subjected to logistic regression, only BMI was related to diabetes, and BMI and age were related to hypertension. Immigrant status, presence of psychiatric disorder, history of psychological trauma, and obesity probably all contributed to the high prevalence rate. With 2.5 million refugees in the country, there is a strong public health concern for cardiovascular disease in this group.

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