July 10, 2007 Scots of South Asian descent are significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack than the rest of the Scottish population, according to a report published in the online open access journal BMC Public Health. However, they are also more likely to survive this traumatic event than their non-Asian countrymen.
At the University of Edinburgh, research funded by The Scottish Executive and led by Dr Raj Bhopal and Colin Fischbacher, linked information on individual ethnic groups from the 2001 Census to Scottish hospital discharge and mortality data. One-way encryption techniques, know as 'hashing', were used on the data, to preserve anonymity. The results showed that South Asian men had a 45 percent higher incidence of heart attack, and South Asian women an 80 percent higher chance than the rest of the population.
Previous studies suggested that people of Asian descent have a higher incidence of heart attack than people of other ethnic origins, which is worrying in Scotland, a country internationally notorious for heart disease. The higher survival rate may be due to Asian communities tending to live in the inner cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, potentially enabling them to get to hospital quickly. Increased awareness of heart disease amongst Asian populations may also be a factor.
A person's ethnicity is seldom recorded in UK National Health Service (NHS) records; so investigating how this relates to health has proved difficult on a large scale. The data-handling techniques developed for this study will hopefully overcome the glaring absence of cohort studies reporting by ethnic group in Europe.
"There is an obligation to ensure that potential ethnic inequalities are highlighted so that they can be assessed and addressed," says Bhopal. "We have shown how to innovatively, and anonymously link census and health databases to produce this vital information."
Record linked retrospective cohort study of 4.6 million people exploring ethnic variations in disease: myocardial infarction in South Asians Colin Fischbacher, Raj Bhopal, Chris Povey, Markus Steiner, Jim Chalmers, Ganka Mueller, Joan Jamieson and David Knowles BMC Public Health (in press)
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