Diabetes can be found in every country in the world and without effective prevention and management programmes the burden will continue to increase globally. 1
Type 2 diabetes makes up about 85 to 95% of all diabetes in high-income countries and may account for an even higher percentage in low- and middle-income countries. 1 Type 2 diabetes is now a common and serious global health problem, which, for most countries, has developed together with rapid cultural and social changes, ageing populations, increasing urbanisation, dietary changes, reduced physical activity, and other unhealthy behaviours. 1
Type 1 diabetes, although less common than type 2 diabetes, is increasing each year in both rich and poor countries. In most high-income countries, the majority of people with diabetes in the younger age groups have type 1.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is common and, like obesity and type 2 diabetes, is increasing throughout the world. 2 The risk of developing diabetes is very high in women who have had GDM. The reported prevalence of GDM varies widely among different populations around the world. Much of the variability is due to differences in diagnostic criteria and study populations. As a result it has not been possible in this report to estimate the prevalence of GDM as there are few population-based studies on this form of diabetes. Nonetheless, the challenges of GDM have to be addressed and further research is required in this area.
Some 366 million people worldwide, or 8.3% of adults, are estimated to have diabetes in 2011. About 80% live in low- and middle-income countries. If these trends continue, by 2030, some 552 million people, or one adult in 10, will have diabetes. This equates to approximately 3 new cases every 10 seconds, or almost 10 million per year. The largest increases will take place in the regions dominated by developing economies. This estimate is much larger than in the previous edition, and is mostly due to the inclusion of new data sources from China, the Middle East, and Africa.
In 2011, the greatest number of people with diabetes is in the 40 to 59 age group. More than three-quarters of the 179 million people with diabetes in this age group live in low- and middle-income countries.
This age group will continue to have the greatest number of people with diabetes in the coming years; by 2030, it is expected that this number will increase to 250 million. Again, more than 86% will be living in low- and middle-income countries.
There is little gender difference in the global number of people with diabetes for both 2011 and 2030. There are about four million more men than women with diabetes (185 million men vs 181 million women) in 2011. However, this difference is expected to decrease to two million (277 million men vs 275 million women) by 2030.
There continue to be more people with diabetes living in urban than in rural areas. In low- and middle-income countries, the number of people with diabetes in urban areas is 172 million while 119 million live in rural areas. By 2030 the difference is expected to widen with 314 million people living in urban areas and 143 million in rural areas.
1: World Health Organization. Prevention of diabetes mellitus. Report of a WHO Study Group. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1994. No. 844.
2: Hunt KJ, Schuller KL. The increasing prevalence of diabetes in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am 2007; 34 (2): 173-99, vii.