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The Prevalence of Diabetes among U.S. Latinos

Adequate glycemic control is 48% and health insurance coverage among Latino diabetics is 52.4%…. 

In the U.S, Latinos make up of 17% of the total population and the prevalence of diabetes in Latinos has been found to be higher compared to non-Hispanic whites. However, the prevalence of diabetes in Latino subgroups has not been investigated. The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) is the first U.S. population based-study to address the major gap in the current understanding of race/ethnicity disparities in endocrine disorders in Latino populations.

Two articles published from the HCHS/SOL report high prevalence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome among Latinos. Schneiderman et al. indicated that diabetes rates in South Americans was 10.2%, in Cubans was 13.4%, in Central Americans was 17.7%, in Dominicans and Puerto Ricans was 18% and in Mexicans was 18.3%. In addition, diabetes prevalence had a positive correlation with years living in the U.S. and an inverse correlation with education and household income. Latinos with a higher number of years living in the U.S. tended to have insurance coverage with greater access to healthcare and preventive healthcare services, improved socio-economic status, and increased English language ability. However, they are also more prone to cardiovascular disease risk factors due to poor nutrition, low rates of physical activity, and subsequent obesity.

Heiss et al. reported the rate of metabolic syndrome in Latinos to be varied by age, sex, and Hispanic/Latino background. A primary contributing factor to the metabolic syndrome in Latino women was abdominal obesity: 96% of Latino women with metabolic syndrome had abdominal obesity and their waist circumference increased with more metabolic risk factors. However, this study lacked data on abdominal fat contribution, thus it was not apparent whether visceral fat was related to waist circumference in Latino populations or if abdominal fat differed from white populations.

Results from both studies showed low rates of diabetes awareness and control, and health insurance coverage across different Latino backgrounds. The rate of diabetes awareness was 58.7%, adequate glycemic control was 48%, and health insurance coverage among diabetics was 52.4%. The poor outcomes for Latinos with diabetes could be due to several factors such as lack of health insurance and lack of access to healthcare due to language barriers, poor health literacy, and being distrusted by or discriminated against by healthcare providers.

Practice Pearls:

  • Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), the first U.S. population based-study, showed high prevalence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Latinos.
  • Diabetes prevalence in Latinos had a positive correlation with years living in the U.S. and an inverse correlation with education and household income.
  • Rates of diabetes awareness and control, and health insurance coverage across different Latino backgrounds were relatively low.
U.S. Census Bureau. State & County QuickFacts. [database on the Internet], 8 Jul. 2014. Available from quickfacts.census.gov. Accessed 3 Aug. 2014.

Lopez L. and Golden S. A New Era in Understanding Diabetes Disparities Among U.S. Latinos—All Are Not Equal. Diabetes Care. 2014. 37:2081-2083.

Schneiderman N, Llabre M, Cowie CC, e al. Prevalence of diabetes among Hispanics Latinos from diverse backgrounds: the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). Diabetes Care 2014; 37:2233-2239.

Heiss G, Snyder ML, Teng Y, et al. Prevalence of metabolic syndrome among Hispanics/Latinos from diverse backgrounds: the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). Diabetes Care 2014; 37:2391-2399.

Golden SH, Brown A, Cauley JA, et al. Health disparities in endocrine disorders: biological, clinical and nonclinical factors – an Endocrine Society scientific statement. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2012; 97:E1579-E1639.