Two out of five adults will develop type 2 diabetes, researchers warn

Over 40% of Americans are expected to develop type 2 diabetes during their adult life, according to a US study that suggests the UK is on track for a similar risk profile.

Diabetes: research shows advance of condition (Photo: Jim Varney)
Diabetes: research shows advance of condition (Photo: Jim Varney)

The Lancet study compiled data from nationally representative US health interviews and death certificates from 1985 to 2011, and estimated that two out of every five Americans would develop diabetes from the age of 20 onwards.

Previous studies have shown that prevalence of pre-diabetes and diabetes in England and the US are similar, as more than a third of the adult population in England currently have pre-diabetes and are at risk of developing diabetes, bringing the country in line with US figures. But UK prevalence has been rising faster.

'The profile of increasing incidence and declining mortality in the UK, Canada, and Finland suggest that similar dynamics in lifetime risk are also taking place in these countries,' the researchers said.

Black women in particular were revealed to be at the highest lifetime risk with over half (55.2%) expected to develop the disease from age 20. Hispanic men and women also had lifetime risks exceeding 50%. People of Asian descent were not included in the study.

The study authors, from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Atlanta, US, suggest that longer lifespans and decreased mortality rates may have resulted in more people living with the condition – and for longer.

Impact on healthcare resources

The number of years spent living with diabetes increased by 156% in men and 70% in women in 2000-11 compared to 1990-99, while life-years lost due to the disease dropped by nearly two years in men, bringing them more in line with women.

As people live with diabetes for longer, the authors suggest the condition is likely to continue to demand greater use of healthcare time and resources. Prescribing figures from 2013/14 show NHS spending on diabetes drugs increased by over 5% from the previous financial year.

The study authors said the findings showed that the probability of developing the disease is ‘substantially higher than previous estimates’, which were based on outdated figures from the 1990s.

They said: ‘Continued increases in the incidence of diagnosed diabetes combined with declining mortality have led to an acceleration of lifetime risk and more years spent with diabetes, but fewer years lost to the disease for the average individual with diabetes.

‘These findings mean that there will be a continued need for health services and extensive costs to mange the disease, and emphasise the need for effective interventions to reduce incidence.’

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