Indian health risks rise after move to city: study

Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:16am EDT
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NEW York (Reuters Life!) - After Indians migrate from rural to urban areas, the longer they live in a city the worse they score on measures of cardiac health and diabetes risk compared to those who remained in rural areas, according to an Indian study.

Body fat, blood pressure and fasting insulin levels -- a measure of diabetes risk - all increased within a decade of moving to a city, and for decades after, blood pressure and insulin kept rising above the levels in rural counterparts, said the study, in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The results raise broad global public health concerns, given the rising urban population.

"The findings suggest that body fat increases rapidly when one first moves to an urban environment, whereas other cardiometabolic risk factors evolve gradually," wrote study leader Sanjay Kinra, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

According to the United Nations, the growth change in India's urban population is 1.1 percent each year, while the change in the proportion of people in rural areas is declining by 0.37 percent.

But the proportion of urban residents in the United States is much higher. Just 30 percent of Indians live in urban areas, compared to 82 percent of U.S. residents.

For the study, Kinra and his team compared rural Indians to their siblings who moved to one of four cities in India: Lucknow, Nagpur, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Siblings who lived in a city the longest had the highest average blood pressures.

For instance, men who lived in a city for more than 30 years had an average systolic blood pressure of 126, while men who lived in a city for 10 to 20 years had an average of 124. Those who stayed in rural areas had an average of 123.   Continued...

<p>Homeless men sleep in a night shelter managed by an NGO, in the old quarters of Delhi January 8, 2010. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause</p>