Open Access Research article

Prevalence, risk factors and co-morbidities of diabetes among adults in rural Saskatchewan: the influence of farm residence and agriculture-related exposures

Roland Dyck12*, Chandima Karunanayake14, Punam Pahwa24, Louise Hagel14, Josh Lawson14, Donna Rennie34, James Dosman14 and on behalf of the Saskatchewan Rural Health Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Royal University Hospital, 103 Hospital Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 0W0, Canada

2 Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

3 College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

4 Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-7

Published: 5 January 2013



Although rural Canadians are reported to have higher rates of diabetes than others, little is known about the relative influence of known versus agriculture-related risk factors. The purpose of this research was to carry out a comprehensive study of prevalence, risk factors and co-morbidities of diabetes among adults in rural Saskatchewan and to determine possible differences between those living on and off farms.


In 2010, we conducted a baseline mail-out survey (Saskatchewan Rural Health Study) of 11,982 households located in the provinces four agricultural quadrants. In addition to self-reported physician-diagnosed diabetes, the questionnaire collected information from farm and small town cohorts on possible diabetes determinants including lifestyle, family history, early life factors and environmental/agricultural-related exposures. Clustering effect within households was adjusted using Generalized Estimating Equations approach.


Responses were obtained from 4624 (42%) households comprising 8208 males and females aged 18 years or older and 7847 self-described Caucasian participants (7708 with complete information). The overall age-standardized diabetes prevalence for the latter was 6.35% but people whose primary residence was on farms had significantly lower diabetes prevalence than those living in non-farm locations (5.11% versus 7.33% respectively; p<0.0001). Diabetes risk increased with age and affected almost 17% of those older than 65 (OR 2.57; CI 1.63, 4.04 compared to those aged 18–45). Other known independent risk factors included family history of diabetes (OR 2.50 [CIs 1.94, 3.23] if father; OR 3.11 [CIs 2.44, 3.98] if mother), obesity (OR 2.66; CIs 1.86, 3.78), as well as lower socioeconomic status, minimal/no alcohol intake and smoking. The most original finding was that exposure to insecticides conferred an increased risk for diabetes among males (OR 1.83; CIs 1.15, 2.91). Finally, the co-morbidities with the strongest independent association with diabetes were heart disease and hypertension.


While known diabetes risk factors are important determinants of diabetes in the agricultural zones of Saskatchewan, on-farm residence is protective and appears related to increased outdoor activities. In contrast, we have now shown for the first time that exposure to insecticides is an independent risk factor for diabetes among men in rural Canada.

Diabetes; Rural; Agriculture; Insecticides; Farm; Exposures