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UK and Global Diabetes Figures

Published : Monday April 11, 2016 | Posted in : Diabetes

Diabetes UK has revealed that the number of people in the UK who have diabetes has reached 4 million. This includes 3.5 million who have been diagnosed with the condition, as well as an estimated half a million who are living with the condition but don't know it.

The vast majority - about 90% - of people with diabetes have Type 2, and it is this kind of diabetes that is far more common in adults. While Type 1 diabetes is not avoidable, Type 2 often occurs as a result of lifestyle factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and being overweight or obese. That is why it is often seen as preventable, or even 'curable'. It is also mainly Type 2 that is increasing at such an alarming rate.

What do the figures say?

A report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the global figure for diabetes is 422 million people. Like the UK based statistics, this correlates to quadruple the amount of diabetics than reported in the 1980s (the figure was around 108 million worldwide in 1980). During this time, the rates of obesity have steadily risen, which experts believe to be a significant, if not primary, cause of Type 2 diabetes.

Despite the diabetes treatment options available to manage glucose levels, and the wide scale nature of the condition, diabetes has been responsible for approximately 1.5 million deaths in the world since 2012.

Diabetes related deaths is obviously the biggest risk related to the condition, however it is important to remember that diabetics must monitor their lifestyle and possibly seek treatment to help control diabetes on a continual basis. Without managing diabetes correctly, other complications such as heart attacks, kidney failure, nerve damage and even amputation (particularly leg amputation) may occur.

Other studies show the effect of diabetes on pregnant women including foetal death, and a study from the University of Cambridge states that mothers who develop diabetes during their pregnancy are more likely to have abnormally large babies, putting the mother's health at risk during childbirth.

Diabetes figures in the UK

As mentioned, the UK have approximately 4 million diabetics, and the majority of these have been diagnosed with Type 2 and therefore more likely to have developed their condition as an adult through lifestyle factors such as a lack of exercise and a poor diet resulting in being overweight. This accounts for one in 16 adults, with a fresh diagnosis occurring on average every two minutes.

In 1996, 1.4 million people in the UK had diabetes. Numbers are expected to reach 5 million by 2025, and with a 65% rise in cases in the last decade; it looks like we are hurtling towards this prediction. So why is this happening? And what does it mean for health in the UK?

Why Is This So Troubling?

Diabetes is a condition many of us know about to some degree. We know it's to do with the blood sugar levels, we know that lifestyle factors can often cause Type 2 diabetes and we know Type 1 diabetics need injections to manage their condition, quite often since childhood. For a condition that is increasing in cases on a daily basis, and the ability to manage symptoms with treatments and lifestyle changes, we forget the toil it can have…

Recent news of Malik Taylor death at just 45 – more commonly known as Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest – has shocked the music world and emphasises the importance of controlling diabetes. Having spoke about an addition to sugar that contributed to his condition, Taylor is believed to have died from complications associated with diabetes, and his reluctance to alter the lifestyle choices and a high intake of sugar intake could go deeper than the primal need for snacks. Experts have touched upon the link between obesity and addiction, although it is still not fully understood, but what we can agree on is the link between the amount we're eating, of which is largely unhealthy, and the rise in diabetes diagnoses.

Diabetes and obesity

Type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with being overweight, and obesity rates in the UK have also increased dramatically, almost quadrupling in the last 25 years. This correlates closely with the recent diabetes figures, and with expert analysis, offers proof that our lifestyles need to adapt to avoid the chronic condition.

"Over 60% of UK citizens are now classed as overweight and around 1 in 4 are obese, with a BMI of 30 or higher. More obesity results in related health conditions including heart disease and cancers, as well as diabetes, which are becoming prevalent across the UK." According to figures from Public Health England

When combined with an ageing population, it is clear that the NHS and other health services will come under increasing pressure as more people require care and treatment for long term health conditions such as diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes in children

Type 2 diabetes is common in older people and that may partly explain the rise in cases in terms of the link to personal choices, but medical professionals also report that they are now diagnosing children with Type 2 diabetes, something unheard of in previous decades.

Currently 98% of children with diabetes have Type 1, but this is beginning to change. In 2000, the first cases of Type 2 diabetes in children appeared, and this is increasing with children as young as seven being diagnosed in more recent years. One study found that 95% of children with Type 2 diabetes are overweight, indicating a strong correlation with the rise in obesity rates.

So What Can We Do?

Diabetes UK has called for better care for people with both kinds of diabetes, but if Type 2 is preventable, we should also be looking at our modern lifestyle and making changes if we want to maintain a healthy population. With growing awareness of the causes of obesity, rates among children appear to have stabilised although they are not yet falling. There is also increasing pressure on the government from various organisations, often backed by the general population, to restrict the amount of sugar in our food and drinks. Even companies such as Coca-Cola, who resisted making changes for a long time, have finally taken steps to appear more health conscious, producing 'Coca-Cola Life'; a lower calorie, lower sugar content version of traditional Coke.

Whilst adjusting our lifestyles to help combat or manage diabetes, and these companies producing healthier foods and drinks by alter their ingredients or offering alternatives is a push in the right direction, there also needs to be a focus on education. Whilst in schools in the UK we take cookery classes, there is little focus on nutrition and the ability of make basic healthy meals. With the rise in diabetes affects families of all incomes – in particular, those classed under the category of "middle class incomes" – obesity is an epidemic that we haven't yet seen the result of, and cannot solely be associated with those families beyond the average wage. By educating families on the importance of healthy meals, as well as how nutritious they can be, we can begin to combat the obesity issue on a national scale.

Countries Within The UK Number of People With Diabetes
England 2,913,538
Northern Ireland 84,836
Scotland 271,312
Wales 183,348

*Figures from

For those with Type 1 diabetes, due to the often-hereditary causes of this strain of the condition, diabetics are required to injection insulin into their system and a medical professional in person should issue this. For Type 2 diabetics, a healthy lifestyle of exercise and diet is a must, however there are also diabetes treatments available to insist you with improving and monitoring the chronic condition. Metformin and other treatments are available on prescription in the UK.

For those categorised as obese, treatments and even surgery can help you lose weight and avoid the health risks associated with the condition. Whilst surgery is classed as the last method when lifestyle factors haven't proved effective, prescription medications such as Xenical can be used in conjunction with exercise and dietary habits to help reduce your weight.

Many people across the UK are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, becoming another number in these statistics. If you would like to check whether you are at risk of developing diabetes, take a look at our information page to find out more about the risk factors, symptoms and how the condition can be prevented and treated.


Original article published: 06.01.2016 | Updated: 11.04.2016

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