A United Nations (UN) meeting in 2011 set a target to halt the progression of diabetes that is not with age by 2025. That is to say, the health systems of the world need to implement systems that prevent the rise in diabetes caused by diet, lack of exercise, obesity, and smoking by 2025. This is a lofty target and so a paper published in the Lancet set out to determine how the rates of diabetes have changed since 1980 and how likely each country is to hit the target set out by the UN council. The results of this paper give us a startling look into the scope of the problem worldwide.
- As of 2014, there are 422 million adults worldwide with diabetes, up from 108 million in 1980.
- The worldwide rates of diabetes among men that are not attributable to age rose from 4.3% in 1980 to 9% in 2014.
- The rates of diabetes among women that are not attributable to age rose from 5% in 1980 to 7.9% in 2014.
- United Kingdom had an increase in the rate of diabetes between 1980 and 2014 of 4% to 4.9% in women and 4.8% to 6.6% in men.
- Canada’s rate increased from 4% to 4.8% in women and 5% to 6.2% in men.
- The rate in the US increased from 4.3% to 6.4% in women and 4.7% to 8.2% in men.
- The prevalence of diabetes was highest in Polynesia and Micronesia where about 1 in 4 men and women have diabetes.
- Half of all adults with diabetes live in five countries: China, India, USA, Brazil, and Indonesia.
- For men, there was only one country whose prevalence decreased from 1980 to 2014. By contrast, there were more than 60 countries whose prevalence doubled.
- For women, there were 16 countries whose prevalence decreased from 1980 to 2014 but there were also more than 60 countries whose prevalence doubled.
Those are some alarming stats, and there are many more like it. Diabetes is costing the US economy $176 billion in direct health care costs and $69 billion in indirect costs like lost work or decreased productivity. By setting the goal of halting the progression of the disease by 2025, the UN is trying to combat a disease the not only costs billions of dollars but also takes many lives and impairs many people’s quality of life. Frighteningly though, reaching this target seems all but impossible. If the trends of this data continue, the chance of us halting the rise in prevalence of diabetes stands at less than 1% for men and at 1% for women. There are only 9 countries for men and 29 countries for women that stand better than a 50% chance of meeting the target. For men, the countries that stand the best chance of halting the progression are: Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Finland, and Australia. For women, the countries that stand the best chance are more numerous and include: Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Spain, Finland, Norway, Belgium, and Australia among others. That may seem like good news but the situation is much more bleak in countries of the Middle East, North Africa, East Asia, and Caribbean where they only stand a less than 3% chance of meeting the target.
This paper didn’t identify differences between type-1 or type-2 diabetes but 85-95% of the cases are likely type-2 which is more common in adults. Type-2 is also the one we can control by changing out diet, exercising more, and quitting smoking. We need to do something now to curb the rise in these diseases and it will likely have to be drastic.
Image credit: Eduardo García Cruz – Flickr