Assessment of cardiovascular disease risk factors and diabetes mellitus in Australian prisons: is the prisoner population unhealthier than the rest of the Australian population?

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2005 Aug;29(4):318-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2005.tb00200.x.


Introduction: This paper compares the prevalence estimates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in the Indigenous and non-Indigenous New South Wales (NSW) prisoner population in 1996 and 2001, and also compares the 2001 prevalence estimates with Australian population data.

Methods: In 1996 and 2001, 789 and 916 prisoners, respectively, in NSW underwent a face-to-face interview covering behavioural risks and physical and mental health. Weight, height and blood pressure were recorded and blood was taken for measurement of cholesterol and random blood sugar.

Results: The prevalence of hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia and smoking were lower in the 2001 prison survey as compared with the 1996 survey but the prevalence of smoking was extremely high in both the prison surveys (88% in 1996 and 79% in 2001). There were no differences in the age and sex-adjusted prevalence estimates for any condition except that the prison sample had a higher standardised morbidity ratio for angina than the AusDiab population.

Conclusion: This study highlights the high prevalence of CVD risk factors, particularly in younger prisoners, when compared with the Australian non-prison population.

Implications: Programs should be put in place to routinely screen for chronic disease conditions and to educate Australian prisoners regarding CVD and diabetes risk factors and their long-term management.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons*
  • Risk Factors