Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – What is the scale of the problem?

Diabetes is a particularly nasty long-term condition because of the complications associated with it. However, these can often be avoided if the disease is managed well, and people living with diabetes can often lead long and healthy lives. If managed poorly though, that’s when complications occur. These are often traumatic – diabetes is the most common cause of leg amputations across the world, for instance, with more than 1 million people losing a leg every year. That’s one lost leg every thirty seconds.

The prevalence of diabetes has increased enormously since the 1980s. The following tables provide a breakdown of how numbers have grown over the last 35 years for different countries. As you can see, this is not a disease exclusive to western developed nations, but a truly global problem.

The increased incidence of diabetes by continent between 1980 and 2014.

The authors of this study went one step further by evaluating the age-adjusted increase in diabetes prevalence. This is an important calculation because T2DM is strongly associated with age, so you would naturally expect the number of people with diabetes to increase with an aging population. Age-adjusted calculations take this in account, and show the net change in diabetes prevalence. The authors calculated that global age-standardised diabetes prevalence between 1980 and 2014 increased from 4·3% to 9·0% in men, and from 5·0% to 7·9% in women, which leads us to infer that a number of factors about our modern lifestyles are responsible beyond age alone. Diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management all play their role. If current trends continue, over 700 million adults across the planet will be living with diabetes by 2025.

Extract from Chapter 1 – Diabetes Unpacked, by Mike Gibbs, CEO,