HealthDay News — Language barriers are not associated with an increased risk of diabetes complications for immigrant patients, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.

To examine the effects of language barriers on the risk of acute and chronic complications of diabetes on mortality, Karen Okrainec, MD, of the University Health Network in Toronto, and colleagues examined a cohort of 87,707 immigrants to Canada diagnosed with diabetes.

Patients were stratified by language ability at the time of their immigration application. The cohort was followed for a median of 6.9 person-years.

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Immigrant patients were significantly older were more likely to have migrated for family reunification, had less education, and had higher health care use (all P<0.001). The adjusted rates of diabetes complications were not higher for immigrants with language barriers (acute complications: hazard ratio, 0.99; 95% CI: 0.93-1.05; cardiovascular events or death: HR, 0.95; 95% CI: 0.91-0.99).

Older age, being unmarried, living in a rural neighborhood, and having less education were significant predictors of diabetes complications. The risk of cardiovascular events or death was significantly lower for immigrants who were older (aged ≥65 years) and who arrived through family reunification (HR, 0.88; 95% CI: 0.81-0.96).

“In a heterogeneous immigrant population with universal insurance, language barriers were not found to increase the risk of diabetes complications,” wrote the researchers. “However, their effect may vary based on age at time of landing, education level, marital status, and neighborhood of settlement.”


  1. Okrainec K et al. Diabetes Care. 2014; doi: 10.2337/dc14-0801