Worldwide toll of diabetes

The latest edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas shows that 463 million adults are currently living with diabetes

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing health challenges of the 21st century, with the number of adults living with diabetes having more than tripled over the past 20 years.

Diabetes is rising worldwide... and is set to rise even further

In 2000, the global estimate of adults living with diabetes was 151 million. By 2009 it had grown by 88% to 285 million. Today, we calculate that 9.3% of adults aged 20–79 years – a staggering 463 million people – are living with diabetes. A further 1.1 million children and adolescents under the age of 20, live with type 1 diabetes.

A decade ago, in 2010, the global projection for diabetes in 2025 was 438 million. With over five years still to go, that prediction has already been surpassed by 25 million.

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IDF estimates that there will be 578 million adults with diabetes by 2030, and 700 million by 2045.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. As a result, the body produces very little or no insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Initially, hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels) is the result of the inability of the body's cells to respond fully to insulin, a situation termed 'insulin resistance'.
  • Gestational diabetes (GDM) is characterised by high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. It may occur at any time during pregnancy (although most likely after week 24) and usually disappears after the pregnancy.
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Why is diabetes on the rise?

The increasing prevalence of diabetes worldwide is driven by a complex interplay of socioeconomic, demographic, environmental and genetic factors. The continued rise is largely due to an upsurge in type 2 diabetes and related risk factors, which include rising levels of obesity, unhealthy diets and widespread physical inactivity. However, levels of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes are also on the rise.

Growing urbanisation and changing lifestyle habits (e.g. higher calorie intake, increasing consumption of processed foods, sedentary lifestyles) are contributory factors for the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes at a societal level. While global prevalence of diabetes in urban areas is 10.8%, in rural areas it is lower, at 7.2%. However, this gap is closing, with rural prevalence on the rise.

Tips for advocates: know the evidence

If you want to become an efficient diabetes advocate, you need to use the latest available evidence to make the case for better diabetes awareness, education, prevention, and care.

Make sure you have read and understood the latest diabetes estimates and projections, as well as the most commonly used diabetes-related terms.

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