Five Terrifying Facts From The World Diabetes Atlas

Five Terrifying Facts From The World Diabetes Atlas

Today, the International Diabetes Federation released the latest edition of its Diabetes Atlas, which has thrown up some deeply troubling statistics about the disease in Australia and abroad. Here are five facts that explain why the disease has the potential to bankrupt Australia’s health system and lead to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Diabetes picture from Shutterstock

Diabetes is a serious issue that can cause everything from sleep apnea to blindness and cardiovascular disease. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes is on course to become the biggest public health problem and epidemic in human history. The predominant form is Type 2 diabetes (about 85 per cent) which can be caused by a combination of poor lifestyle choices and genetic factors.

It’s worse than previously thought

In the 1990s, scientists predicted that the number of diabeties sufferers would reach 100 million by 2013. Instead, the number is almost three times worse, with the current total sitting in the region 382 million. This does not include an estimated 175 million cases that remain undiagnosed. In Australia there are currently 1.7 million people suffering from diabeties, with an additional 1.7 million classed as “high risk” of contracting the disease in the near future.

It’s not getting any better

People with the disease is now forecast to reach 592 million by 2035 — that’s 10 per cent of the world’s entire population. In Australia, the total is expected to hit 2.3 million over the same time period.

It’s deadly

This year, there have been 5.1 million deaths attributed to diabetes around the world, which works out to one person dying every six seconds. In Australia, the total death-count in 2013 is expected to top 9,500. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just old people at risk either — 44 per cent of diabetes-related deaths in Australia this year occurred in people under the age of 60. It is even being seen in Australian children.

Australia is in one of the worst-hit regions

The Western Pacific, which includes Australia, has 138 million diabetes sufferers which is the highest number of people with the disease in the world. On the plus side (for Australians) the bulk of these people live in China and India. Within Australia, Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders have a disproportionate share of the burden — up to 32 per cent suffer from the disease, with women and rural communities being the most vulnerable.

It has the potential to bankrupt health systems the world over

The total cost for diabetes treatment and care worldwide is expected to exceed US$548 billion in 2013. $10.7 billion was spent in Australia alone. These costs do not include lost workplace productivity due to premature ill health.

So can anything be done? The Australian Government has announced its intention to consider a national diabetes strategy proposed by Diabetes Australia to help combat the problem.

“We’re hopeful there will be much more action in Australia in terms of prevention of diabetes,” World Diabetes Congress chairman Professor Paul Zimmet said. “It’s certainly the biggest public health priority that this nation faces along with obesity. Unless we do something about it, it’s going to have very severe effects on the national economy.”

The Diabetes Atlas (Sixth Edition) [International Diabetes Federation]


  • When you look at a country like India and see that a people who traditionally are considered thin, are now on the cusp of an obesity epidemic, due their rising wages and accessibility to US style fast food, you realize just how much damage fast food really is doing. The elephant in the room… sugar… again…!

    • It’s much more than simply just fast food. You have a growing middle class who have greater amounts of disposable income, less time to prepare food the traditional way and probably less physically active too.

      I’d argue that it’s modernisation that’s the cause, and that fast good is really just one of the signs of it and not the sole cause of the obesity epidemic.

      • Yeah, you can analyse it any way you want, but it comes down in the end to what people eat, and I mentioned rising wages. When you drill right down to the root cause, the problem is Sugar in food replacing fat to make the food taste more palatable… 🙂

  • I don’t know if your sources define this. But i feel all media agencies should define in articles if you are referring to Type 1 or 2 Diabetes.

    As a type 1 diabetic it is a constant frustration to be so generic about these two diseases that actually are managed very differently.

    • You are right, there should be some clarity as to which type is being discussed.

      This article however outlines that currently it’s about 85% type 2 diabetes, but both types of diabetes are on the climb.

    • Type 1 diabetes gets no currency anymore. All discussion is about type 2; meanwhile type 1 sufferers are the ones with the far more significant and dangerous disorder.

      Even worse is when people blame type 1 sufferers for having diabetes, as if it is preventable. That’s not even true all the time with type 2.

  • …”The Australian Government has announced its intention to consider a national diabetes strategy”…
    MY GOD! You know it’s serious when the Australian government commits to intend to consider it!

  • In the 1990s, scientists predicted that the number of diabeties sufferers would reach 100 million by 2013. Instead, the number is almost three times worse, with the current total sitting in the region 382 million

    That’s definitely more than 3 times.

  • It’s a pity that bodies like Diabetes Australia are going to be providing the information that government uses for its planning.

    They’re still advocating high carb diets for type II diabetics, in the face of all the evidence (and the common bloody sense!) that they raise blood glucose levels which then stay high because, you know, diabetes…

    Most of the diabetes drugs on the market (other than Metformin, which has the drawback of being generic and therefore not pushed by pharma companies) are worse than the disease, and the various Diabetes Australia/America/State/etc all seem to be missing the point.

    • Diabetes Australia doesn’t tell you to eat more carbs if you are type 2 that I ever heard – low GI carbs in particular are necessary (in suitable amounts depending on individual circumstances and dietitian recommendations) in order to provide your body with essential nutrients and fibre and energy (glucose) – it’s just that you need insulin to make sure the energy enters your cells/muscles instead of staying in your bloodstream. FYI carbs can be found in fruits/veg/wholegrains/legumes and low fat milk! Do your research before making a scapegoat of a particular food – carbs and sugar are not evil, but neither should they be eaten in quantities that would knock over an elephant.

  • I have been diagnosed with insulin resistance, which is being managed, but there is no guarantee I won’t develop diabetes. This is a side effect of a medication I have been on for anxiety and sleep for the last 5 years (after 2 major mental health breakdowns in my 20’s). Sometimes you have to prioritise your short term health for your long term health, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people with type 2 diabetes for exactly the same reasons as me.

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