Prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its related factors among North Korean refugees in South Korea: a cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2016 Jun 1;6(6):e010849. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010849.

Abstract

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its related factors among North Korean refugees (NKR) in South Korea.

Design: Cross-sectional study conducted using a questionnaire and anthropometric and biochemical data on NKR in South Korea.

Setting: Seoul, South Korea.

Participants: A sample of NKR who voluntarily underwent medical examinations in Anam Hospital of Korea University, Seoul, South Korea (N=708, consisting of 161 males and 547 females). To compare the prevalence of MetS, 1416 age- and gender-matched individuals from the South Korean population (SKP, at a ratio of 1:2 to NKR) were randomly selected from the fifth Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Main outcome measures: The prevalence of MetS and its related factors among NKR in South Korea and comparison with its prevalence among the general SKP.

Results: The prevalence of MetS among male and female NKR in South Korea was 19.7% and 17.2%, respectively. Although obesity is more prevalent in South than in North Korea, we found no difference in the prevalence of MetS between the female NKR and SKP groups (17.2% vs 16.6%, respectively; p=0.830). As regards the males, the small sample size of the NKR group yielded insufficient evidence of any difference in MetS prevalence between the NKR and SKP groups (19.7% vs 26.2%, respectively; p=0.134). We found that excess weight gain (≥5%) in South Korea was significantly associated with MetS among NKR.

Conclusions: The prevalence of MetS among NKR did not differ from that in the SKP group despite the lower prevalence of obesity in NKR than in the general SKP. The fact that excess weight gain in South Korea was associated with the risk of MetS suggests that public health policy makers should focus on preventing excess weight gain in NKR during resettlement in South Korea.

Keywords: North Korea; health; metabolic syndrome; refugee.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / ethnology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data*
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors