Diabetes now affects one in 10 adults worldwide

02 November 2021

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has released new figures showing that 537 million adults are now living with diabetes worldwide — a rise of 16% (74 million) since the previous IDF estimates in 2019.

Released in advance of World Diabetes Day on November 14th, these new findings highlight the alarming growth in the prevalence of diabetes around the world. The new figures are taken from the upcoming 10th Edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas, which will be published on December 6.

The latest IDF Diabetes Atlas reports that the global prevalence of diabetes has reached 10.5%, with almost half (44.7%) of adults undiagnosed. IDF projections show that by 2045, 783 million adults will be living with diabetes – or one in eight adults. This would be an increase of 46%, more than double the estimated population growth (20%) over the same period.

“As the world marks the centenary of the discovery of insulin, I wish I could report we have witnessed decisive action to turn the rising tide of diabetes. Alas I cannot,” comments IDF President, Professor Andrew Boulton. “Diabetes is a pandemic of unprecedented magnitude. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization launched the Global Diabetes Compact and United Nations Member States adopted a Resolution that calls for urgent coordinated global action to tackle diabetes. These are significant milestones, but words must be turned into action now, and if not now, when?”

The centenary of the discovery of insulin presents a unique opportunity to reflect on the impact of diabetes and highlight the urgent need to improve access to care for the millions affected. An estimated 1 in 2 people with diabetes across the world who need insulin cannot access or afford it.

When diabetes is undetected and inadequately treated, people with diabetes are at higher risk of serious and life-threatening complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation, due to not receiving effective treatments in a timely manner. These complications result in reduced quality of life and higher healthcare costs.

“The new data confirm diabetes as a significant global challenge to the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and countries. A lot of diabetes is hidden. Almost every time we find more recent and more accurate data, our estimates have to be revised upwards,” said Professor Dianna Magliano Co-Chair of the IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee.

Globally, over 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. The rise in the number of people with type 2 diabetes is driven by a complex interplay of socio-economic, demographic, environmental and genetic factors. Key contributors include urbanisation, an ageing population, decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Much can be done to reduce the impact of diabetes. Evidence suggests that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented, while early diagnosis and access to appropriate care for all types of diabetes can avoid or delay complications in people living with the condition.

“The IDF Diabetes Atlas aims to support the development of high quality diabetes data in all countries, in order to fill the gaps in knowledge that currently exist. The insights it contains are intended to help healthcare policymakers deliver action to improve the lives of people with diabetes and those at risk of developing the condition,“ said Professor Edward Boyko Co-Chair of IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee.

Key findings from the 10th edition of IDF Diabetes Atlas include:

  • One in ten (10.5%) adults around the world are currently living with diabetes.
  • The total number is predicted to rise to 643 million (11.3%) by 2030 and to 783 million (12.2%) by 2045.
  • An estimated 44.7% of adults living with diabetes (240 million people) are undiagnosed. Over 4 in 5 (81%) of these people live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Diabetes was responsible for an estimated USD 966 billion in global health expenditure in 2021. This represents a 316% increase over the last 15 years.
  • Excluding the mortality risks associated with COVID-19, approximately 6.7 million adults are estimated to have died due to diabetes or its complications in 2021. That’s more than one in ten (12.2%) of global deaths from all causes.
  • 541 million adults, or 10.6% of adults worldwide, have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), placing them at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

More information and supporting data about the national, regional and global prevalence of diabetes can be found at www.diabetesatlas.org. The 10th Edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas will be launched at the IDF Virtual Congress 2021 on 6 December.

The theme of World Diabetes Day this 14 November is Access to Diabetes Care. IDF is calling on national governments to provide the best possible care for people living with diabetes and develop policies to improve diabetes screening and type 2 diabetes prevention, especially among young people. Learn more at www.worlddiabetesday.org.

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