New WHO data shows number of diabetics have almost quadrupled since 1980

by Barbara Hewitt on April 7, 2016

New figures released by the World Health Organisation show that the number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults, with most living in developing countries.

Factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity, according to the WHO report published to mark World Health Day which celebrates the organization’s founding in 1948.

In its first global report on diabetes WHO highlights the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease and says that measures needed include expanding health promoting environments to reduce diabetes risk factors, like physical inactivity and unhealthy diets, and help people with diabetes receive the treatment and care they need to manage their conditions.

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“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director general.

“Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes,” she added.

The report reveals that the number of people living with diabetes growing in all regions of the world. In 2014 some 422 million adults or 8.5% of the population had diabetes, compared with 108 million or 4.7% in 1980.

It points out that this epidemic of diabetes has major health and socio economic impacts, especially in developing countries as the complications of diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.

Diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012 and higher than optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other diseases. WHO says that 43% of deaths were premature and largely preventable.

“Many cases of diabetes can be prevented, and measures exist to detect and manage the condition, improving the odds that people with diabetes live long and healthy lives. But change greatly depends on governments doing more, including by implementing global commitments to address diabetes,” said says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s assistant director general for NCDs and Mental Health. .

The report also points out that around 100 years after the insulin hormone was discovered essential diabetes medicines and technologies, including insulin, needed for treatment are generally available in only one in three of the world’s poorest countries.

“Access to insulin is a matter of life or death for many people with diabetes. Improving access to insulin and NCD medicines in general should be a priority,” said Dr Etienne Krug, director of WHO’s Department for the Management of NCDs.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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