Diabetes in the Caribbean: results of a population survey from Spanish Town, Jamaica

Diabet Med. 1999 Oct;16(10):875-83. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-5491.1999.00151.x.


Aims: To characterize the prevalence of diabetes and associated risk attributes in the Jamaican population.

Methods: A random population sample was recruited by door-to-door canvassing (n = 1303). A final participation of 60% was achieved. Oral glucose tolerance testing was conducted after an overnight fast and standard anthropometric and demographic data were collected.

Results: The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus was 9.8% (95% confidence interval (CI) 7.2-12.4) among men and 15.7% (95% CI 13.1-18.3) among women with an overall prevalence of 13.4% (95% CI 11.5-15.2). Impaired glucose tolerance was found among 12.3% of men and 14.7% of women. The sex patterns were consistent with a fourfold excess of obesity in women compared to men. The odds ratios for diabetes, fourth vs. first quartiles were 5.42 (95% CI 2.02-16.88) in men and 3.32 (95% CI 1.73-6.63) in women for body mass index (BMI) and 17.39 (95% CI 3.86-78.27) in men and 5.48 (95% CI 2.84-11.00) in women for WHR in a logistic model controlling for age. The population attributes risk percentage, for diabetes, of being overweight and having waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) greater than the median (0.80) were 66% and 80%, respectively. The contribution of central obesity, as characterized by WHR, was also significant in sex-specific multivariate models that included age and BMI. Prevalent hypertension and family history of diabetes were likewise associated with increased odds of having the disease.

Conclusions: The prevalence of diabetes in Jamaica now exceeds that observed among European-origin populations and reflects the emerging epidemic of obesity. The excess risk for this population could not be attributed entirely to relative weight. The pronounced sexual dimorphism in diabetes prevalence most likely reflects the substantial excess of obesity among women compared to men. Like many other island nations, Caribbean societies now appear to be at substantial risk of diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Jamaica / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Smoking / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose