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WHO: Number of diabetes patients quadrupled since 1980

Approximately one in 11 people has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a number the World Health Organization expects to rise if nothing is done.

By Stephen Feller
While World Health Organization officials suggest better treatment of diabetes is needed to prevent the annual number of deaths blamed on the condition, they also recommend governments to do more to promote lifestyles and eating habits that can help people avoid diabetes in the first place. Photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock
While World Health Organization officials suggest better treatment of diabetes is needed to prevent the annual number of deaths blamed on the condition, they also recommend governments to do more to promote lifestyles and eating habits that can help people avoid diabetes in the first place. Photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- Nearly 10 percent of the global population is living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to a new report showing the number of people with the condition has more than quadrupled in the last 25 years.

The World Health Organization released its Global Report on Diabetes Wednesday, which shows the number of people who have either condition has increased from 108 million people in 1980 to 422 million people in 2014 -- a highly concerning number, officials say in the report.

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While type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that requires medical management for life, type 2 diabetes is often preventable, with many cases blamed on diet, weight, lack of activity or other changeable lifestyle habits.

In addition to the increase in adults with the condition, researchers are scrambling for methods of helping people get healthier to avoid type 2 diabetes. The condition was once only found in adults, though children and adolescents are increasingly being diagnosed.

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Researchers found diabetes caused about 1.5 million deaths in 2012, with higher-than-optimal blood glucose levels causing an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risk for other diseases, and 43 percent of these deaths occur before age 70.

WHO officials call for more government action in the report, ranging from encouraging people to make healthier choices and get active, in addition to beefing up healthcare to diagnose, treat and care for people with diabetes.

Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the Department for the Management of non-communicable diseases, Diability, Violence and Injury Prevention at the WHO, and is leading the charge against the diabetes epidemic, said access to insulin -- the price of which has skyrocketed -- and other drugs to treat the condition is a "matter of life and death."

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"Diabetes is a silent disease, but it is on an unrelenting march that we need to stop," Krug told the BBC. "We can stop it, we know what needs to be done, but we cannot let it evolve like it does because it has a huge impact on people's health, on families and on society."

For the study, WHO researchers report 422 million adults, or 8.5 percent of humanity, had diabetes in 2014, nearly double the rate in 1980 when 108 million people, or 4.7 percent of people, had the condition.

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In 2014, more than one in three adults were overweight, and more than one in 10 were obese, researchers report, linking the increasing global obesity epidemic to the increase in diabetes patients around the world.

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The concern echoes another recent study at Imperial College London, which found the number of obese people is six times higher now than 40 years ago.

WHO officials strongly suggest governments get more involved to motivate their citizens for better health and more utilization of healthcare, listing among their suggestions for better patient education, regular screening and earlier and better interventions to promote healthy lifestyles.

"If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain," Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said in a press release. "Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes."

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