The Blog

Surge in Diabetes Bigger Than Predicted

Currently standing at 382million, the number of people affected by diabetes is expected to rocket to 592million by 2035 - that's a 55% increase in just over 20 years.

Since 1991, World Diabetes Day has been celebrated every year on 14 November. Yet, this year, the word 'celebrate' is very far from the reality we face.

The International Diabetes Federation's (IDF) Global Diabetes Atlas, released this week, has painted a pretty grim picture, with projected diabetes rates far exceeding what we once thought.

Currently standing at 382million, the number of people affected by diabetes is expected to rocket to 592million by 2035 - that's a 55% increase in just over 20 years. And the most worrying fact is that despite all the work charities, governments, scientists and healthcare organisations are doing, there is no sign of these figures slowing down, let alone dropping.

According to the report, every six seconds, a person dies from diabetes and its associated complications. A glaring statistic that I simply can't shake from my mind. To put that in context, every 16 seconds someone dies from Aids.

Despite the increasing numbers and poor projections, this report does hold a lot of hope for overcoming common misconceptions of diabetes. For example, many still believe diabetes is a disease of the wealthy, and that the western lifestyle and all that comes with it is to blame for a surge in diabetes. While this is very true - fast food, sedentary lifestyles and urban living has a lot to answer for - 80% of people with diabetes live in low and middles income countries.

In fact, the report clearly shows that diabetes is soaring in every nation across the globe. The rich and the poor are feeling the effects of the diabetes epidemic. But it's the poor and disadvantaged nations who are suffering most. A lack of education and inadequate healthcare mean millions of people are going undiagnosed for years, completely unaware of the long-term damage that diabetes is causing. In South East Asia, almost half of all people with diabetes are undiagnosed.

With more than 138million people with diabetes, the Western Pacific has more people with the condition than any other part of the world. This region includes countries such as China, Australia and Japan. China, once again, has come out on top, home to 98.4million people with diabetes.

But it's not just the world's most populous countries that need attention - smaller, even tiny nations are experiencing a huge surge in diabetes rates. Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific, has a combined land area of only 10km² and a population of around 1,400, yet one in three adults here have diabetes. Prevalence wise, Tokelau is at the top of the global leader board, with 37% of 20 to 79-year-olds having the disease. Although only a dot in the South Pacific Ocean, Tokelau gives us a glimpse into the future and what trends could one day emerge in more populous countries.

All types of diabetes are on the increase - type 1, type 2 and gestational (diabetes that appears during pregnancy) - but type 2 diabetes in particular. All types of diabetes need the right medical attention and treatment to reduce dangerous complications that are not only debilitating, but life threatening.

I've not even touched on the associated costs to society, but considering these latest diabetes statistics, I think they speak for themselves. It's no longer a time to be an advocate for diabetes - it's time something was done. Plans need to be turned into action, and quickly. Reaching those most at risk is crucial, reaching millions is essential.