How does the prevalence of anemia vary among races and ethnic groups?

Updated: Nov 26, 2019
  • Author: Joseph E Maakaron, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Certain races and ethnic groups have an increased prevalence of genetic factors associated with certain anemias. Diseases such as the hemoglobinopathies, thalassemia, and G-6-PD deficiency have different morbidity and mortality in different populations due to differences in the genetic abnormality producing the disorder. For example, G-6-PD deficiency and thalassemia have less morbidity in African Americans than in Sicilians because of differences in the genetic fault. Conversely, sickle cell anemia has greater morbidity and mortality in African Americans than in Saudi Arabians.

Race is a factor in nutritional anemias and anemia associated with untreated chronic illnesses to the extent that socioeconomic advantages are distributed along racial lines in a given area; [7] socioeconomic advantages that positively affect diet and the availability of health care lead to a decreased prevalence of these types of anemia. [8, 9, 10] For instance, iron deficiency anemia is much more prevalent in the populations of developing nations, who tend to have little meat in their diets, than it is in populations of the United States and northern Europe.

Similarly, anemia of chronic disorders is commonplace in populations with a high incidence of chronic infectious disease (eg, malaria, tuberculosis, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]), and this is at least in part worsened by the socioeconomic status of these populations and their limited access to adequate health care.

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