Cardiovascular disease risk factor profiles of 263,356 older Australians according to region of birth and acculturation, with a focus on migrants born in Asia

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 19;10(2):e0115627. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115627. eCollection 2015.


Risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and physical inactivity, are common in Australia, but the prevalence varies according to cultural background. We examined the relationship between region of birth, measures of acculturation, and CVD risk profiles in immigrant, compared to Australian-born, older Australians. Cross-sectional data from 263,356 participants aged 45 and over joining the population-based 45 and Up Study cohort from 2006-2008 were used. Prevalence ratios for CVD risk factors in Australian- versus overseas-born participants were calculated using modified Poisson regression, adjusting for age, sex and socioeconomic factors and focusing on Asian migrants. The association between time resident in Australia and age at migration and CVD risk factors in Asian migrants was also examined. Migrants from Northeast (n = 3,213) and Southeast Asia (n = 3,942) had lower levels of overweight/obesity, physical activity and female smoking than Australian-born participants (n = 199,356), although differences in prevalence of overweight/obesity were sensitive to body-mass-index cut-offs used. Compared to Australian-born participants, migrants from Northeast Asia were 20-30% less likely, and from Southeast Asia 10-20% more likely, to report being treated for hypertension and/or hypercholesterolaemia; Southeast Asian migrants were 40-60% more likely to report diabetes. Northeast Asian-born individuals were less likely than Australian-born to have 3 or more CVD risk factors. Diabetes, treated hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia occurred at relatively low average body-mass-index in Southeast Asian migrants. The CVD risk factor profiles of migrants tended to approximate those of Australian-born with increasing acculturation, in both favourable (e.g., increased physical activity) and unfavourable directions (e.g., increased female smoking). Minimizing CVD risk in migrant populations may be achieved through efforts to retain the healthy facets of the traditional lifestyle, such as a normal body mass index and low prevalence of smoking in women, in addition to adopting healthy aspects of the host country lifestyle, such as increased physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

This specific project was supported by a development grant from the National Heart Foundation, NSW Cardiovascular Research Network, made available through the 45 and Up Study Cardiovascular Research Collaboration. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.