Background: Climate variation has long been studied in relation to human health. The aim of the present work was to evaluate the relationship between environmental humidity, and air temperature with the prevalence of diabetes, among elderly islanders.
Methods: During 2005-2011, 1959 elderly (aged 65 to 100 years) individuals from 13 Mediterranean islands were enrolled. Socio-demographic, clinical and lifestyle factors were assessed using standard procedures. Diabetes was defined as fasting blood glucose levels > 125 mg/dl. Relative environmental humidity was measured as a percentage of air moisture and mean daily temperature in degrees Celsius.
Results: For the present analysis 713 men (74 ± 7 years) and 596 women (73 ± 7 years) with complete data were studied; 27% of both men and women had diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes was 42% in the elders living in high relative humidity areas (i.e., >70%) as compared with 24% among those living at low relative humidity residential areas (p < 0.001). After adjusting for age, sex and mean temperature, an increase in the area's relative humidity by 1 degree, increased the likelihood of having diabetes by 12% (OR = 1.12, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.20). No significant association was observed between mean temperature and diabetes (OR = 0.97, 95% CI 0.74, 1.26).
Conclusions: A considerable proportion of elderly, especially those living in high relative humidity areas, had diabetes. Further research is needed to confirm this observation and to understand the underlying mechanisms.