Consanguineous marriage in an urban area of Saudi Arabia: rates and adverse health effects on the offspring

J Community Health. 1998 Feb;23(1):75-83. doi: 10.1023/a:1018727005707.


The objective of this cross-sectional study was to determine the pattern and time trend of consanguineous marriage and its adverse health effects on the offspring in Dammam city, Eastern Province, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This city is known to attract Saudis from different parts of the country because it is in the heart of this industrial region. Five primary health care centers were randomly selected from different sectors of the city in addition to the city's only Maternity and Children's Hospital. For inclusion in the study a wife must have at least one pregnancy that terminated in either full term liveborn baby, still birth, or abortion. A total of 1307 ever-married Saudis completed a pre-structured questionnaire during an interview. The rate of consanguineous marriage was 52.0% with an average inbreeding coefficient of 0.0312. First-cousin marriages were the commonest (39.3%) of all matings. The consanguineous groups had a significantly higher number of pregnancies. The mean birth weight of the offspring of consanguineous couples was not statistically significant being less than that of the non-consanguineous. However, within the consanguineous groups the more closely related couples had smaller babies on average. No significant differences were noted for the rates of inherited diseases and reproductive wastage. The rate of consanguineous marriage in this city was high and so was the inbreeding coefficient. These figures place this nation among the countries with a high rate of consanguineous marriages. A nationwide study to determine accurately the relationship between consanguinity and inherited diseases has much to commend it.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Birth Weight
  • Community Health Centers
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Consanguinity*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / epidemiology
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population