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Global Burden of Diabetes

Diabetes Global Burden 

  • Diabetes is one of the four priority noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Once a disease of affluence, it is now increasingly common among the poor.1 Asia accounts for 60% of the world’s diabetic population.
  • Diabetes kills and disables, impoverishes families, imposes a huge economic burden on governments and businesses, and overwhelms health systems. It affects rich and poor, young and old. The majority of people with diabetes are in low- and middle-income countries and have limited access to affordable treatment.2
  • According to the International Diabetes Federation’s 5th edition of the Diabetes Atlas 366 million people had diabetes and as many as 183 million (50%) are unaware they have diabetes.   By 2030 this will increase to 552 million people representing  around 10% of the global adult population if nothing else is done. Similar to other NCDs, the majority of people with diabetes (80%) live in low- and middle-income countries.2,3
  • In 2008, age-standardized adult diabetes prevalence was 10% in men and 9% in women. The number of people with diabetes increased from 153 million in 1980, to 347  million in 2008.4
  • Evidence shows that the burden of diabetes continues to shift to low and middle-income countries. Almost 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and have limited access to affordable treatment.2 Diabetes  was projected to claim 1,008,000 lives in India, 575,000 in china and 231,000 in the US in 2010.5
  • India and China are at the forefront of the diabetes epidemic.6 But the global epicenter of the diabetes epidemic has shifted from India to China. New study (2010) from China suggests World Health Organization (WHO) may have underestimated the burden of diabetes. Previous estimates suggested a 42 million Chinese with diabetes in 2030. According to the new study 92 million Adult Chinese (10%) have diabetes and another 148 million (16%) have prediabetes. 7
  • India has at least 50 million people with diabetes which appears to be an underestimation based on the dramatic increase of diabetes reported from China (See Diabetes India).2, 7
  • Despite this increasing burden, between 50% and 70% of people in China and between 30% and 80% of people in India are not diagnosed and are left untreated.8 This appears to be due to the combination of poor public awareness and limited opportunities for diagnosis.
  • Diabetes results in high healthcare costs, loss of labor productivity and decreased rates of economic growth. International Diabetic Federation (IDF) estimates that diabetes will cause USD 378 billion in global healthcare spending in 2010 – equivalent to 12% of global healthcare expenditure. This is predicted to increase to USD 490 billion by 2030.2
  • The WHO predicted net losses in national income from diabetes and CVD of International Dollar (ID) 558 billion in China, ID 303  billion in the Russian Federation, and ID237 billion in India between 2005 and 2015.2, 9
  • Diabetes kills and disables. Every eight seconds, somewhere in the world someone dies from diabetes. A large proportion of the four million people who die each year as a result of diabetes are in their most productive years (40-60 years), resulting in a high economic cost to society. Almost half of diabetes deaths occur in people under the age of 70 years; 55% of diabetes deaths are in women 
  • Diabetes is a chronic, incurable, costly, but largely preventable NCD which is responsible for millions of deaths annually, debilitating complications, and incalculable human misery. Diabetes affects everyone and requires a collective response. Diabetes is not just a health issue. Its causes are diverse. Its impact is felt by all of society. The solutions and response must therefore be multi-sectoral and coordinated, according to IDF President, Jean Claude Mbanya.2


1. Hu FB. Globalization of Diabetes: The role of diet, lifestyle, and genes. Diabetes Care. Jun 2011;34(6):1249-1257.

2. 2010 November. Accessed January 15,2011.

3. Diabetes Atlas 5th ed. Brussels: International Diabetes Federation;2011

4. Danaei G, Finucane MM, Lu Y, et al. National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2.7 million participants. Lancet. Jul 2 2011;378(9785):31-40.

5. Roglic G, Unwin N. Mortality attributable to diabetes: estimates for the year 2010. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. Jan 2010;87(1):15-19.

6. International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes Atlas, Fourth  Edition  Brussels  2009.

7. Yang W, Lu J, Weng J, et al. Prevalence of diabetes among men and women in China. N Engl J Med. Mar 25 2010;362(12):1090-1101.

8. Narayan KM, Chan J, Mohan V. Early Identification of Type 2 Diabetes: Policy should be aligned with health systems strengthening. Diabetes Care. Jan 2011;34(1):244-246.

9. World Health Organization. Preventing Chronic Disease: A Vital Investment  World Heath Organization, Geneva 2005. 2005.

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