Diabetes: The Numbers

The number of people with diabetes worldwide is growing rapidly. Here are some of the staggering statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people with diabetes rose from 108 million to 415 million.
  • Among adults over 18 years old, cases of diabetes rose from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014.
  • Diabetes is rising faster in middle- and low-income countries.
  • Diabetes is one of the major causes of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation.
  • 6 million deaths resulted of diabetes in 2015.
  • In 2030, the WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death.

Diabetes around the World

In the U.S., 29 million people have diabetes, which is 9.3 % of the population. Of those, 30% are undiagnosed. Here are a few other facts by regions of the world:

  • More than ¾ of those with diabetes in Africa are undiagnosed
  • One in eight adults in North America and the Caribbean has diabetes
  • 37% of adults with diabetes live in the Western Pacific

Researchers are still not sure about the cause of diabetes. Diet, saturated and trans fats, excessive carbs, processed foods, and man-made additives are thought to be the main culprits.

It is a puzzle, however, because most people with diabetes in the West are obese, while those in developing nations like India are not. This could be because of the rapid economic transition that has taken place in the past two decades in India and other nations, changing the lifestyle and processed food intake of many. Researchers are now looking at body fat percentage and visceral fat (fat in the abdomen) as well as malnutrition in the womb as predictors of the disease.

The countries with the highest number of adults with diabetes can be seen here:

chart of top 10 countries for adults with diabetes

The countries with the highest percentage of their population with diabetes are:

  • Tokelau: 29.7%
  • Mauritius: 24.3%
  • Nauru: 23.8%
  • Cook Islands: 21.1%
  • Marshall Islands: 21.1%

These are all small island nations, mostly in the Pacific Islands, which have not had access to quality foods. They have suffered malnutrition and inadequate food labeling, as they tend to import more processed food than they did traditionally. The highest prevalence percentage of a non-island nation is Saudi Arabia with 17.6%.

Needless to say, more research is still needed to figure out how to solve the growing epidemic of diabetes around the world.