U.S. Leads Developed Nations in Diabetes Prevalence

New and detailed data from the new International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas, released at this week’s World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver, Canada (Nov 30-Dec 4) reveals that, unsurprisingly, the United States has the highest prevalence (11% of the population aged 20-79 years) of diabetes among developed nations. This league table includes countries of the European Union plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Israel, Andorra, Norway, Switzerland, and the U.S. itself.

And in terms of estimates of absolute numbers of people with diabetes in these nations, the U.S., with almost 30 million people with diabetes, has around two thirds the number of cases of all the other 37 nations in the developed nation league combined (46 million).

In terms of prevalence, Singapore finished a close second to the U.S. (10.5%), followed by Malta (10%), Portugal (10%), and Cyprus (9.5%) in 3rd, 4th, and 5th place respectively. The countries with the lowest estimated prevalence in the 38 nation league were (lowest first), Lithuania, Estonia, and Ireland (all around 4%), followed by Sweden, Luxembourg, the U.K., and Australia (all around 5%). Canada, the host nation for the World Diabetes Congress, has the 12th highest prevalence, at 7%.

“The prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide,” says Professor Nam Cho, chair of the IDF Diabetes Atlas committee. “While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is currently unknown, trends such as urbanisation, unhealthy diets and reduced physical activity are all contributing lifestyle factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

The individual country data follows the release of the Diabetes Atlas summary, revealing that an estimated 415 million people globally have diabetes in 2015, with almost half remaining undiagnosed (47%); this figure is expected to increase to around 642 million by 2040. Some 75% of people with diabetes live in low-income and middle-income countries, and every six seconds there is diabetes related death, with five million such deaths each year globally.

While the U.S. leads the league table of developed nations, in terms of the global league, it is in 60th position. This is because diabetes is sweeping through the Middle East, Caribbean, and Latin American regions, as well as the multiple nations making up the Pacific Islands. In fact, island nations or territories in various regions take all of the top five positions in the global league: in first place, Tokelau (30% prevalence), followed by Nauru (24%), Mauritius (22%), the Cook Islands (21%), and the Marshall Islands (21%). Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait are all in the top 10. China and India have the highest total numbers of people with diabetes (110 million and 69 million respectively), but not the highest prevalences, with China 78th in the world on around 10% prevalence and India 76th with around 9%.

The 10 nations with the lowest estimated rates of diabetes globally are all in Africa.  This is partly due to their higher prevalence of other diseases and lower life expectancy.  However prevalence rates in Africa are forecast to double by 2040.

“As rates of type 2 diabetes increase in many countries around the world, we urgently need preventative action,” says Petra Wilson, PhD, CEO of IDF. “IDF asks governments to lead the way in creating healthier environments, implementing fiscal policies on unhealthy food and using the revenues generated to help prevent and manage all types of diabetes.”

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