diabetes research, culture, aboriginal language,

Loss of Culture Linked to Higher Rate of Diabetes

According to a University of Alberta researcher, people who are more connected to their culture tend to have a smaller chance of getting diabetes.  A lack of aboriginal language and culture has shown to be an accurate predictor of diabetes.


Before the 1950s, diabetes was not a concern in the Canadian aboriginal population.  Since then it has grown to be two to five times the rate of the general population.  The researchers believe that a lack of culture among other factors has caused these raises in rates of diabetes.

The Study

The study involved 31 First Nations communities in Alberta.  They compared these communities’ aboriginal language rates with the indigenous population.  The average rate of diabetes in the communities was 9.5% (The lowest rate being 1.2% and the highest being 18.3%).  The percentage that spoke their native language varied from 10.5% to 92.8%.  The researchers made comparisons with many other possible factors to try and understand the cause for this unusually high rate of diabetes.  They compared median household income, unemployment, and high school completion.  Only lower rates of aboriginal language turned out to be an accurate predictor for the risk of diabetes.

The Results

The study concludes that “those communities that have more people speaking and knowing their language, and who are presumably more connected to their culture, have significantly less diabetes”.  Rick Lightning, a First Nations leader in Maskwacis, Alberta, believes these findings are meant to be a wake-up call.  He believes that diabetes started to make its appearance when residential schools were introduced into First Nations communities.  This caused trauma and a general loss of culture, which links back to the study.  These results undoubtedly show that eating healthy is not the only concern when preventing diabetes.

These findings are taken from a study by the International Journal for Equity in Health.

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