Diabetes Incidence and Prevalence

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2014, about 347 million people have diabetes worldwide. WHO estimates that in 2012, approximately 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes, and more than 80 percent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income areas.

WHO projects that by 2030, diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. To promote effective measures geared to reducing diabetes risk, WHO:

  • provides guidelines for diabetes prevention
  • develops standards for diabetes diagnosis and care
  • works with other organizations to build diabetes awareness
  • conducts studies on diabetes risk factors

In April 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that the percentage of people with diabetes in the United States doubled since 1998. Nearly 1 in 10 adults have been diagnosed with the condition, and fewer people are thought to be undiagnosed—perhaps due to improved screening methods for diabetes.

According to the NIH in September 2015, data from 2011–2012 showed that 12 to 14 percent of adults in the United States had diabetes. This research also showed that more than half of Asian Americans, nearly half of Hispanic Americans, and 25–36 percent of all adults with diabetes didn't know they had it. It also showed that 36 to 38 percent of all adults had prediabetes (blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified an area of the United States where the incidence of type 2 diabetes is higher than in other parts of the country. This "diabetes belt" is located primarily in 15 states in the South East region. According to the CDC, obesity and lack of physical activity account for approximately 33 percent of the increased diabetes risk in this area.

Here is a map showing the diabetes belt in the United States:

Diabetes Belt Image - CDC

In September 2014, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the NIH issued a report stating that factors that increase diabetes incidence may differ between the genders. According to the report, increased diabetes prevalence in women in the United States between 1976 and 2010 may be attributed to higher body mass index (BMI) in women, an aging population, and changes in race and ethnicity. In men, increased diabetes prevalence may be associated with higher rates of overweight/obesity (indicated by higher BMI), improved survival times compared to women with the condition, and changes in physical activity, sleep, and other factors.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Christopher D. Saudek, M.D.; Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., and the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 19 Apr 2009

Last Modified: 26 Oct 2015