medwireNews: A large study based on a policy of semi-randomised dispersal of refugees within a country supports the notion that living in a deprived neighbourhood can increase people’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The researchers took advantage of a government policy in Sweden between 1987 and 1991, which aimed to relieve pressure on the labour market and promote integration of refugees by settling them in randomly assigned areas. A total of 61,386 people were settled according to this policy, 7.4% of whom subsequently developed diabetes.
The team found that being settled in a high-deprivation area, rather than a low-deprivation area, was associated with a significant 1.73 percentage point increase in the risk of developing diabetes. This difference was attenuated to a nonsignificant 0.85 percentage points after accounting for age, gender, education, marital status, region of initial placement, family size, region of origin and year of arrival.
“Although the increased risk was small, we found that the effect accumulated over time”, said lead study author Justin White (University of California, San Francisco, USA) in a press statement.
The risk rose over time for people in both moderate- and high-deprivation neighbourhoods relative to people in low-deprivation neighbourhoods. The effect was strongest for high-deprivation areas, with each additional 5 years in such a neighbourhood adding 9% to the relative risk of developing diabetes.
The researchers note in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology that immigrants normally tend to settle in areas with a high proportion of other immigrants, which are often relatively deprived. Thus, the Swedish policy probably reduced the prevalence of diabetes in this cohort of refugees, they say.
White noted that their findings are pertinent to the current situation in Europe, with large numbers of migrants and refugees entering European countries.
“Our data suggest that decisions affecting the settlement and integration of immigrants can have long-term consequences for the health of the new arrivals, and that these societies may end up paying the price decades later if refugees do not receive adequate support up front,” he said.
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