Six out of the world’s top ten countries for highest prevalence (%) of diabetes are in the Middle East and North Africa Region – Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The region has the highest comparative prevalence of diabetes (11.0%). Rapid economic development coupled with ageing populations have resulted in a dramatic increase in the prevalence of diabetes.
Over the past three decades, major social and economic changes have occurred in the majority of the countries in the region. These include progressive urbanisation, decreased infant mortality and increasing life expectancy. With this rapid development, especially among the more wealthy oil-producing countries, come significant changes involving poor nutrition, decreased physical activity, increased obesity and smoking. 1 2
In 2011, 32.8 million people or 9.1% of the adult population have diabetes. This number will almost double to 60 million in less than 20 years. The explosion of diabetes in the region is mainly due to type 2 diabetes. The prevalence (%) in the region for younger age groups is substantially higher than the global average. A further 24 million people, or 6.7% of the population, are at high risk of diabetes from impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). This number is expected to nearly double by 2030 as well.
By far the largest contribution to the total number of children with type 1 diabetes comes from Saudi Arabia whose estimates account for almost a quarter of the region’s total of 65,200.
Just over 10% of all deaths in adults in the region are attributable to diabetes. This represents nearly 280,000 deaths in 2011. Deaths due to diabetes are evenly split between men (141,000) and women (138,000). Just under half of all deaths attributable to diabetes for the region occur in people under the age of 60. Early death from diabetes may be a result of the rapidly changing environments and lifestyles of the region, late diagnosis, and health systems which are not equipped to keep up with the growing burden.
In spite of the high estimates of diabetes prevalence in the region the total healthcare expenditures for diabetes is expected to be only USD 10.9 billion in 2011. Healthcare expenditures due to diabetes in the region account for just 2.3% of the total global figure. However, these expenditures are expected to double by 2030.
In total, 25 sources from 14 countries, many of which were new for this edition, were used to estimate diabetes prevalence in adults. Reliable data for type 1 diabetes in children were also available in a number of countries in this region. The Middle East and North Africa Region poses a particular challenge for estimating prevalence of diabetes because a large proportion of the resident population in many countries is made up of migrants. As a result, studies that only include nationals from a country are limited in their ability to represent a complete picture of diabetes for the whole country. However, it is important to consider that for many of these countries, diabetes prevalence (%) is even higher among nationals than for the country as a whole.
1: Arab M. The economics of diabetes care in the Middle East. In Alberti K, Zimmet P, Defronzo R, editors. International Textbook of Diabetes Mellitus. Second Edition. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd; 1997.
2: World Bank. World Bank Data, WHO parameters, 1999-2000. World Bank; 2000.