BACKGROUND:The aim of the present work was to evaluate the relationships between socio-demographic, clinical, lifestyle and psychological characteristics and the presence of diabetes mellitus, among elderly individuals without known cardiovascular disease. METHODS:During 2005-2007, 1190 elderly (aged 65 to 100 years) men and women (from Cyprus, Mitilini, Samothraki, Cephalonia, Crete, Lemnos, Corfu and Zakynthos) were enrolled. Socio-demographic, clinical and lifestyle factors were assessed using standard procedures. Diabetes mellitus was defined as fasting blood glucose >125 mg/dl or use of special medication. RESULTS:21% of males and 23% of females had diabetes. Only 70% of diabetic participants were on a special diet and 76% were receiving pharmaceutical treatment. Diabetic individuals had higher prevalence of hypertension (80% vs. 64%, p < 0.001) and hypercholesterolemia (63% vs. 51%, p < 0.001) and reported lower physical activity status (p < 0.001), compared with non-diabetic participants. After adjusting for various confounders, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia were associated with a 144% (95% CI, 1.37-4.35) and 83% (95% CI, 1.13-2.94) higher likelihood of having diabetes, while moderate and vigorous exercise correlated with a 82% (95% CI, 0.09-0.81) and 67% (95% CI, 0.11-0.97) lower likelihood of diabetes. CONCLUSIONS:A considerable proportion of our elderly sample had diabetes and other metabolic disorders, almost 25% of which were untreated. Promotion of physical activities, even in the elderly, may contribute to reducing their burden of diabetes and provide them with a better quality of living.