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

WCMQ mortality group
The WCM-Q Research Group

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

According to Dr Ravinder Mamtani, Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q, Qatar is a very successful multi-cultural community that has attracted extremely high levels of inward migration from all over the world. He said that mortality trends between different demographic groups often vary widely. Dr Mamtani is the senior author of the study.

Additional analysis of 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 give a clearer insight into potential strategies for avoiding preventable deaths for all members of the community.’

The study analysed mortality data over a 27-year period, from 1989 to 2015, when Qatar experienced very rapid population growth as large numbers of migrant workers arrived. Between 2005 and 2010, population growth was at 22%, having been less than 4% before 2000. Consequently, Qatar’s population aged 15 and above is approximately 90% non-Qatari.

National Population Versus Migrants

Entitled ‘Adult mortality trends in Qatar, 1989-2015: National population versus migrants’, the study analysed 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 Organisation’s classification of diseases.

Among Qatari and non-Qatari adults, overall mortality rates fell for both men and women over the covered period. This is believed to have been caused by free access to a modernised and expanded healthcare system, improved education and socio-economic development. Among Qatari males, the main cause of death 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.

‘Healthy Migrant’ Effect

The research, which has been published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, 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, a Population Health and Communication Specialist, is the first author of the paper. She said that the inward migration of healthy young adult men to work on development and construction projects has a substantial effect on the overall mortality rate, 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 that the significant decrease suggests safety improvement in the work environment.

Dr Sohaila Cheema, Dr Amit Abraham and Dr Hekmat Alrouh also worked on the study. Read the full study through this link.