Will undocumented migrants contribute to change epidemiology, presentation and pharmacologic treatment of diabetes in Western countries?

Gianfrancesco Fiorini, Silvano Milani, Angela I. Pincelli, Damiano Calella, Silvia Galliani, Silvia Badalamenti, Antonello E. Rigamonti, Nicoletta Marazzi, Alessandro Sartorio, Silvano G. Cella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Migrants from countries in which health and social conditions are unsatisfactory, and their offspring, are becoming a growing component of the western population. Available health data show that their morbidity is at least comparable to that of the host country population, with a significant contribution of chronic diseases as diabetes. The possibility that diabetes shows different features in undocumented migrants is the hypothesis that we tried to investigate in this study. Methods: We retrospectively analysed the data of 413 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM): 222 patients followed in a diabetes clinic at a University Hospital and 191 undocumented migrants cared for by a Charity in Milan, Italy. Results: We found that the onset of the disease was earlier in migrants; they showed a significant lower body mass index (BMI) and had lower socioeconomic conditions. They had a worse glycaemic control. The pattern of complications was also different between the two groups, with cardiovascular complications more frequent in Italians. Finally, also pharmacologic treatment differed significantly. Conclusions: Age of onset, clinical manifestations and complications of T2DM in undocumented migrants and natives may show significant differences. This is important for both epidemiological and clinical reasons. If these preliminary observations are confirmed by larger studies, we can conclude that undocumented migrants should be screened for T2DM earlier than natives, and that therapies should be tailored to the specific features of their disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
JournalPrimary Care Diabetes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Diabetic complications
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Undocumented migrants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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