Racial differences in diabetes among union forces during the us civil war

Jeffrey A. Smith, B. Christopher Frueh, Jennifer Campbell, Leonard Egede

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and disproportionately affects ethnic minorities. While research examining health disparities is well-established, an historical understanding of how the disparities evolved over time may be warranted. This article examined racial differences in prevalence of diabetes and associated mortality in Blacks and Whites during the US Civil War. Data were extracted from the Medical and Surgical History of the War of Rebellion, 1861- 1865, representing segregated White and Black Union Forces who served during the war. Data were collapsed by war theater (Atlantic, Central, Pacific). Results by race show that, from 1861 to 1866, the rates of Whites diagnosed with diabetes ranged overall from 0% to .11% and was distributed throughout the war theaters as: Atlantic 0.3% to .05%; Central 0.3% to .08%, and Pacific 0% to .11%. For Blacks, Atlantic ranged from .02% to .07% and Central .03% to .06%. None were reported for Pacific. Mortality was approximately .01% for both Blacks and Whites. These data suggest no racial differences in diabetes prevalence and mortality existed between Blacks and Whites during this time, implying that disparities may have evolved more recently. (Ethn Dis. 2015;25[1]:104-107).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-107
Number of pages4
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Civil War
  • Diabetes
  • Military

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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