A letter from the Chair of the IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee, 6th Edition
This 6th edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas once again sets the standard for evidence on the global epidemiology of diabetes. The new estimates build on the groundwork laid by previous editions, and confirm the precipitous rise in diabetes over the last few years. An astounding 382 million people estimated to have diabetes, with dramatic increases seen in countries all over the world. The overwhelming burden of the disease continues to be shouldered by low- and middle-income countries, where four out of five people with diabetes are living. Socially and economically disadvantaged people in every country carry the greatest burden of diabetes and are often the most affected financially.
The new estimates show an increasing trend towards younger and younger people developing diabetes, a trend that is very worrisome for future generations. If current demographic patterns continue, more than 592 million people will be affected with diabetes within a generation. This figure takes into account changes only in the population and patterns of urbanisation, and is almost certainly an underestimate. Estimates of type 1 diabetes in young people also show unexplained and rapid increases in several regions along with the rise in type 2 diabetes in older populations.
The burden of diabetes is reflected not only in the increasing numbers of people with diabetes, but also in the growing number of premature deaths due to diabetes. In 2013, roughly half of all deaths due to diabetes in adults were in people under the age of 60, and in less-developed regions like sub-Saharan Africa, that proportion climbs to 75%. As life expectancy increases, while the infectious disease burden decreases, and development drives rapid changes in lifestyles, it is the developing regions that will see the greatest changes in the burden of diabetes.
For the first time, the IDF Diabetes Atlas has produced estimates of high blood glucose in pregnancy. This serious and underreported condition is affecting many women and infants – an estimated 21.4 million live births in 2013. Not only does diabetes pose a grave threat to the health of a mother and her child but evidence shows high blood glucose levels during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life for the child, further contributing to the already devastating epidemic.
More high-quality studies than ever before have contributed to the estimates in this edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas. Nevertheless, more studies are needed to describe the burden of diabetes in order to improve the precision of the estimates, and contribute to an evidence base that is fundamental in driving powerful advocacy for people with diabetes.
Professor Nam Han Cho
Chair, IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee, 6th Edition