Posted on November 14, 2018

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) have published a groundbreaking study of adult mortality trends in Qatar, giving a detailed breakdown of the leading causes of death of non-Qataris and Qataris.

Because Qatar’s community is highly diverse, viewing the overall mortality data for the entire country provides limited information about the leading causes of death of each group. The new research by WCM-Q sought to give a more accurate view of adult mortality in Qatar by comparing the trends for the national and migrant populations.

Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q, is the senior author of the study. Dr. Mamtani, who is also Senior Associate Dean for Population Health, Capacity Building and Student Affairs, said: “Qatar is a very successful multicultural community that has attracted extremely high levels of inward migration from all over the world. Mortality trends between different demographic groups often vary widely. Additional analysis of the trends can help obtain a clearer picture of the health risks posed to individuals. Our aim was to assess mortality trends of the leading causes of death for nationals and non-nationals and in so doing give a clearer insight into potential strategies for avoiding preventable deaths for all members of the community.”

The study analyzed mortality data over a 27-year period, from 1989-2015, during which time Qatar experienced very rapid population growth as large numbers of migrant workers arrived. Between 2005 and 2010 population growth was 22 percent, having been less than 4 percent before 2000. Consequently, Qatar’s population aged 15 and above is approximately 90 percent non-Qatari. Entitled ‘Adult mortality trends in Qatar, 1989-2015: National population versus migrants’, the study analyzed available mortality data by breaking it down by nationality, sex, age group, year of death, and cause of death, the latter based on the World Health Organization’s classification of diseases.

Among Qatari and non-Qatari adults, overall mortality rates fell for both men and women over the period. This is believed to have been caused by free access to a modernized and expanded healthcare system, improved education and socioeconomic development. Among Qatari males, the main cause of deaths was transport injuries, largely from road accidents, although the mortality rate in this category fell over the period, coinciding with government measures to improve road safety. The mortality rate for transport injuries over the period was higher for Qatari males than for non-Qatari males. For Qatari and non-Qatari females the main cause of death was neoplasms, usually cancerous tumors.

The research, which has been published in PLOS ONE, a leading scientific journal, also confirmed the ‘healthy migrant’ effect, whereby large influxes of healthy young men leads to an overall decrease in mortality for the entire population.

Dr. Karima Chaabna, Population Health and Communication Specialist, is first author of the paper. She said: “The inward migration of healthy young adult men to work on development and construction projects has a substantial effect on the overall mortality rates, showing significant reduction in mortality for cerebrovascular disease [strokes], ischemic heart disease, neoplasms [tumors], and hypertensive disease, among others. It is therefore essential to separate the data in order to get a clear picture of how mortality trends are actually changing. The good news is that progress has been made in these areas among both the Qatari and non-Qatari populations. Nevertheless, premature deaths linked to these preventable conditions and to transport accidents remain higher among Qataris than in other populations, presenting us with targets for public health interventions.”

The study also found that mortality caused by falls among non-Qatari men decreased significantly between 2001 and 2014 from 5.1 to 2.6 per 100,000. The study notes: “Remarkably, mortality due to falls in non-Qatari males decreased significantly, suggesting safety improvement in the work environment. Non-Qatari males’ work environment seems to have improved over time. In 2010-2013, the yearly fatal occupation rated was 1.6/100,000 in the only designated hospital for major injury treatment in Qatar. This is half what is reported in the United States (3.4/100,000).”

Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Director of WCM-Q’s Institute for Population Health and Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research, Dr. Amit Abraham, Projects Specialist and Dr. Hekmat Alrouh also worked on the study. Dr. Cheema said: “Our aim with this study was to emphasize demographic specificities in Qatar in order to provide insights that could be useful when developing, implementing, and monitoring public health programs. This will help policy makers to design and target their public health interventions, hopefully leading to improved healthcare outcomes and a reduction in the number of preventable deaths.

Read the full research paper: