Prevalence of and risk factors for diabetes mellitus in the school-attending adolescent population of the United Arab Emirates: a large cross-sectional study

Caroline Barakat, Susan Jamuria Yousufzai, Alison Booth, Lenka Benova

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OBJECTIVES: The prevalence of diabetes has reportedly increased among adolescents in low-income and middle-income countries of the Middle East and may be linked to social, demographic and economic contextual factors. This study aimed: (1) to estimate the prevalence of self-reported diagnosis of diabetes in the adolescent population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE); (2) to assess differences in the prevalence based on gender and (3) to identify other characteristics of those with diabetes including parental marital status, smoking/illegal drug use, quality of life and nationality.

DESIGN: A secondary data analysis was performed on data from the National Study of Population Health in the UAE, conducted between 2007 and 2009.

SETTING: Large cross-sectional population-based survey study.

PARTICIPANTS: Survey was administered to a stratified random sample of 151 public and private schools from the UAE, across 7 emirates. 6365 school-attending adolescents (12-22 years; mean=16 years) participated.

OUTCOMES: Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to examine the relationships between diabetes diagnosis and characteristics of participants after adjusting for confounding from other predictors.

RESULTS: The overall prevalence of self-reported diabetes was 0.9% (95% CI 0.7% to 1.2%) and was higher in males 1.5% (95% CI 1.0% to 2.1%) than females 0.5% (95% CI 0.3% to 0.8%), (p<0.001). Children of parents who were not currently married had more than twice the odds of self-reporting diabetes (p=0.031) compared with those with married parents. Adolescents who reported ever smoking/using illegal drugs had more than three times the odds of diabetes (p<0.001).

CONCLUSION: We found a positive association between certain characteristics of adolescents and their diabetes status, including male gender, parental marital status and smoking/illegal drug use. The high prevalence of smoking/illegal drug use among those reporting a diagnosis of diabetes suggests the need for behavioural and mental health interventions for adolescents with diabetes, as well as strong parental support and involvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere046956
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • United Arab Emirates/epidemiology


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