Rural, urban and migrant differences in non-communicable disease risk-factors in middle income countries: a cross-sectional study of WHO-SAGE data

Oyinlola Oyebode, Utz J Pape, Anthony A Laverty, John T Lee, Nandita Bhan, Christopher Millett
PloS One 2015, 10 (4): e0122747

BACKGROUND: Understanding how urbanisation and rural-urban migration influence risk-factors for non-communicable disease (NCD) is crucial for developing effective preventative strategies globally. This study compares NCD risk-factor prevalence in urban, rural and migrant populations in China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa.

METHODS: Study participants were 39,436 adults within the WHO Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE), surveyed 2007-2010. Risk ratios (RR) for each risk-factor were calculated using logistic regression in country-specific and all country pooled analyses, adjusted for age, sex and survey design. Fully adjusted models included income quintile, marital status and education.

RESULTS: Regular alcohol consumption was lower in migrant and urban groups than in rural groups (pooled RR and 95%CI: 0.47 (0.31-0.68); 0.58, (0.46-0.72), respectively). Occupational physical activity was lower (0.86 (0.72-0.98); 0.76 (0.65-0.85)) while active travel and recreational physical activity were higher (pooled RRs for urban groups; 1.05 (1.00-1.09), 2.36 (1.95-2.83), respectively; for migrant groups: 1.07 (1.0 -1.12), 1.71 (1.11-2.53), respectively). Overweight, raised waist circumference and diagnosed diabetes were higher in urban groups (1.19 (1.04-1.35), 1.24 (1.07-1.42), 1.69 (1.15-2.47), respectively). Exceptions to these trends exist: obesity indicators were higher in rural Russia; active travel was lower in urban groups in Ghana and India; and in South Africa, urban groups had the highest alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSION: Migrants and urban dwellers had similar NCD risk-factor profiles. These were not consistently worse than those seen in rural dwellers. The variable impact of urbanisation on NCD risk must be considered in the design and evaluation of strategies to reduce the growing burden of NCDs globally.

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