Diabetes increases around the globe

This graphic is the logo for the World Health Organization
World Health Organization

The number of people affected by diabetes has doubled worldwide during the past three decades, largely tracking global changes in development and urbanization, according to a new study analyzing diabetes rates in more than 200 countries published June 25 in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Between 1980 and 2010, the number of people with diabetes leaped from 153 to 347 million. For men older than 25, the diabetes rate jumped from 8.3 to 9.7 percent. For women, the percentage increased from 7.5 to 9.5 percent.

The study suggests that about 70 percent of the increase is due to population growth and aging and about 30 percent is a result of obesity and other risk factors.

“This is likely to be one of the defining features of global health in the coming decades,” said Majid Ezzati, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at Imperial College London who headed the study, in a Washington Post article. “There’s simply the magnitude of the problem. And then there’s the fact that unlike high blood pressure and high cholesterol, we don’t really have good treatments for diabetes.”

The United States’ diabetes rate rose at a rate of nearly double that of Europe. However, much of the global increase was based in developing countries such as India, and in parts of Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. The rate is highest in the South Pacific: in Oceania.

Much of the future increase in the diabetes rate is expected to be in China, where diabetes has only become a major issue during the past decade.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1, which individuals develop in childhood and require insulin shots to survive, and Type 2, which develops normally after the age of 25 and accounts for about 90 percent of cases.

The study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization.