Changing mortality patterns in Nauruans: An example of epidemiological transition

M. Schooneveldt, T. Songer, P. Zimmet, K. Thoma

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An analysis of mortality data for the years 1982-5 was carried out for the Micronesian population (aged 15 years and over) of the central Pacific Island, Nauru. Among males, the most common causes of death were circulatory system disorders (33.3%), accidents (25.2%), and diabetes mellitus (12.1%). The majority of accidents occurred in the 15-34 year age group and involved motor vehicles. Among females, neoplasms (almost all lung and cervix) (22.4%), circulatory system disorders (20.7%), and diabetes mellitus (17.2%) were the most common causes of death. When accidents are excluded, 59.4% of deaths were in persons with diabetes. Compared with Australia, mortality rates in almost all age groups were at least five times higher for males and females for a comparable period. Nauruan life expectancy (39.5 years for men and 48.5 years for women) is one of the lowest in the world. These data confirm the high mortality associated with diabetes mellitus in Nauruans as evidenced in earlier studies. Modernisation of this society through the affluence acquired by the mining of phosphate has led to serious public health problems relating to non-communicable diseases so that the mortality trends now mirror those of developed societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

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