Urbanization and the risk for chronic diseases of lifestyle in the black population of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

J Cardiovasc Risk. 1997 Apr;4(2):135-42.


Background: Men and women have experienced differing patterns of urbanization. Men spent more time in the city as migrant labourers, which could be attributed to the influx control legislation during the apartheid years.

Objective: To investigate urban exposure among black people of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, in relation to unhealthy lifestyles and the risk factors for chronic diseases of lifestyle.

Methods: Blood pressure, height, weight and serum cholesterol were measured in a random sample of 986 persons, aged 15-64 years. Sociodemographic details, urban exposure, dietary intake patterns and personal habits were elicited by questionnaire. An urbanization index (percentage of life spent in a city), the dietary Keys score and body mass index were calculated. Linear regression modelling for cholesterol and hypertension, and multiple correspondence analysis for risk factors and demographic characteristics were performed.

Results: The degree of urbanization had no effect on total serum cholesterol concentrations, which were very low compared with other groups in South Africa. Hypertension was independently related to age, obesity and the degree of urbanization. Smoking patterns were influenced by the degree of urbanization in women only. Correspondence analysis identified groups with clusters of risk factors: formal housing-westernized diet-highly urbanized; male-normal weight-increased exercise-alcohol-smoking; female-obesity-non-smoking; and hypertension-ageing.

Conclusions: Those who spent larger proportions of their lives in an urban setting tended to have unhealthier lifestyles and higher risk for chronic diseases lifestyle compared with their less urbanized counterparts. Groups to whom intervention should be targeted were also identified.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • South Africa
  • Urban Population*