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Is consanguinity prevalence decreasing in Saudis?: A study in two generations

AS Warsy
MH Al-Jaser
A Albdass
S Al-Daihan
M Alanazi


Background: Saudi population is unique in that there is a strong  preference for cousin marriages in the general population. We studied the prevalence of consanguinity in educated Saudi females and compared the results with the results obtained in their parents, to access if a generation difference in which extensive educational activities have prevailed to inform the people of the influence of cousin marriages on health, has made any difference in prevalence of consanguineous marriages.
Method: A total of 600 Saudi women (421 university students and 179 women attending outpatients’ clinics) were interviewed about their own and their parents’ consanguinity.
Results: The total consanguinity (first and second cousins) was 29.7% in the parents. Consanguinity was significantly higher among the daughters than the parents, where 37.9% of the 293 married women had  consanguineous marriages. The prevalence of consanguinity was studied in different age groups, though no significant pattern was observed. A strong correlation was found between consanguinity of parents and their  daughters; consanguinity was highest (52.3%) in the daughters of parents who were themselves consanguineous.
Conclusion: The results did not reveal any decrease in the prevalence of consanguinity over a generation. This shows that the tradition of marrying within the family is a preferred practice, despite the awareness that certain genetic disorders occur at a higher frequency in cousin marriages. There is a need at the primary health care level to inform the public of the consequences of this common practice.

Key words: Consanguinity; Saudis; First cousin marriage; second cousin marriage; Middle East.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1729-0503
print ISSN: 1680-6905