Vibration perception threshold (VPT) was measured in 1185 Indian, Creole, and Chinese men and women in Mauritius, where the current prevalence of diabetes mellitus in adults aged 25-74 years is estimated to be 13%. Vibration perception threshold was measured using a biothesiometer, at seven sites in the hand, wrist, foot, and ankle, during a population survey in 76% of 574 known diabetic patients (KDM), 79% of 525 newly diagnosed diabetic patients (NDM), 18% of 1121 subjects with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and in 127 normal subjects. The association of VPT with glucose tolerance and other risk factors was assessed in order to identify individuals most at risk of foot ulceration and to determine whether risk factors and normal levels for VPT in these ethnic groups were consistent with those reported for Caucasians. After adjusting for age and height, geometric mean VPT at six of seven sites increased significantly with worsening glucose tolerance and increasing duration of diabetes in both men and women, VPT also increased significantly with level of fasting plasma glucose in men, but not women. Smoking and alcohol consumption had no effect on VPT, and body-mass index (BMI) was positively associated only at some sites. Chinese subjects had lower VPTs than Indians or Creoles. In multiple linear regression models, age, male gender, duration of diabetes, ethnic group, and height (lower extremity sites) were significantly associated with VPT among diabetic subjects. In a similar model including all subjects, age was a significant determinant of VPT at all sites, ethnicity and glucose tolerance status at most sites, male gender at some sites, and height at foot and ankle sites. Both the models explained more variation in VPT at sites on the lower limbs. These results are consistent with other published studies, but VPT in the Mauritian sample is higher than that reported for a large British population.