Background Linguistic and genetic evidence shows that Romani people, now numbering around 10-12 million in Europe, originate from North India. Romanis are thought to have migrated from North India around 10th-11th Century AD. Cardiovascular health is extremely poor in recently settled Indians living in Europe. Diabetes is also highly prevalent. As Romanis emigrated from India, we hypothesised their cardiovascular health would be similar to recently settled South Asians. The recent Indian migration of the 1950’s onwards comes 500 years after the Romani’s first movements into Europe.
Methods This paper is not a systematic review but, background data were found by a search for abstracts using PubMed. Key search terms were Roma/Romani/Gypsy/Gipsy and/or health, cardiovascular health, genetics, linguistics, diabetes, stroke, Body Mass Index, maternal health and birth outcomes. In all over 70 abstracts were read, of which 30 were discarded due to lack of relevance to the specific review focus while 4 were discarded due to being unable to gain access to the journal. 36 papers were downloaded from online journals and from this 19 papers were used in final the review. The websites of the United Nations Development programme, the World Health Organisation, the Open Society Institute and the Roma Decade of Inclusion were examined. Grey literature was particularly valuable in drawing demographic data.
The results use data from key papers which are compared to the best equivalent data available on the same topic of Indians living in the United Kingdom.
Results Studies have shown Romanis to have higher levels of several cardiovascular risk factors when compared to local populations; these include diabetes (30% vs. 10%), central obesity (38% vs. 20%), hypertriglyceridemia (66% vs. 39%), smoking and raised BMI. Low birth weight and gestational age also mirror trends of the Indian ethnic origin population in the United Kingdom.
Romanis in Europe are well documented to have a 10-15 year reduced average lifespan compared to the majority - the age distribution pyramid in fact more resembles a developing country pattern than that of industrialised countries.
Conclusion Our findings demonstrate commonality of several cardiovascular risk factors – underlying reasons for this are discussed. This work potentially offers insights into the high rates of cardiovascular diseases in both populations. To our knowledge no previous work has examined the matter from this perspective.