Diabetes Prevalence

Diabetes prevalence is being largely attributed to increased obesity
Diabetes prevalence is being largely attributed to increased obesity

Since 1996, the number of people with diabetes in the UK has risen from 1.4 million to 3.2 million. Diabetes prevalence in the UK is estimated to rise to 5 million by 2025.

Type 2 diabetes in particular has been growing at the particularly high rate and is now one of the world’s most common long term health conditions.

UK diabetes prevalence

Currently, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK is estimated to be 3.2 million. [16]

This represents 6% of the UK population.

That equates to 1 in every 17 people having diabetes (includes diagnosed and undiagnosed). Amongst the figures, it is predicted that up to 630,000 people in the UK have diabetes but have not been diagnosed.

The prevalence of diabetes in the UK (for adults) is broken down as follows:

How many people have diabetes in the UK
Country Prevalence Number of People
England 6.0% 2,703,044
Northern Ireland 5.3% 79,072
Scotland 5.2% 252,599
Wales 6.7% 173,299

The majority of these cases are of type 2 diabetes, which has been linked to increasing cases of obesity.

World diabetes prevalence

It is estimated that 382 million people are living with diabetes in the world, which is estimated to be 8.5% of the world’s population. Further still, an estimated 175 million people have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.


The prevalence of diabetes is currently rising each year and each recorded figure is becoming quickly dated. Currently 2.9 million people in the UK are estimated to be recorded as living with diabetes.

It is believed that as much as an extra half a million people may be currently undiagnosed with diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes across the UK is around 4.5% of the population.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates that about 360 million people worldwide are living with diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes worldwide is estimated at about 8.5% of the population.

There are a number of theories as to why diabetes, and type 2 diabetes in particular, is on the increase. A number of theories point to diet. However, there is some disagreement as to which part of our diet should be to blame.

Health organisations tend to pinpoint saturated and trans fats as a leading cause. Other researchers believe excessive carbohydrate may be to blame.

Another popular theory is that processed foods, including the use of man made trans fats and other additives, to be a strong factor.

Prevalence of diabetes types

The main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, which is a lot more common in children and may also be known as juvenile diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is much more prevalent in adults.

These figures were taken from 2014 [16] and give the UK average prevalence of 6%.

Diabetes across adults and children

The following figures indicate the differing proportion of the two main types of diabetes across age groups:

  • Adults: 10% have type 1 diabetes
  • Adults: 90% have type 2 diabetes
  • Children: 98% have type 1 diabetes
  • Children: 2% have type 2 diabetes

Whilst type 1 diabetes is much more common in children, across all ages of the UK population, type 2 diabetes is certainly the most common type of diabetes.

Adults and children combined:

  • 15% have type 1 diabetes
  • 85% have type 2 diabetes

Global diabetes prevalence

The UK is currently not the worst sufferer of diabetes. Globally 382 million people currently have diabetes, which is estimated to reach 592 million by 2035.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) currently states that the top 5 countries with the highest amount of diabetic patients are as follows:

  • China
  • India
  • United States
  • Russia
  • Brazil

The countries with the highest prevalence, however, are nations such as Saudi Arabia, Nauru and Mauritius. It is probably due to a country’s size, why their numbers of people with diabetes are higher however it is definitely more prominent in low and middle-income countries.

Prevalence of diabetes and ethnicity

Ethnicity has a big role as diabetes is five times as likely to develop in Pakistani women, two and a half times as likely in Indian women and diabetes is four times more prevalent in Bangladeshi and Indian people as a whole.

Generally speaking diabetes prevalence is often six times higher for people of South Asian origin and three times higher for those of African origin.

It is unsure why this is the case however a many number of risk factors could be the reason. Poor economy and lifestyle are noted to lead to unhealthy dietary patterns, which is a possible cause with genetics being another potential factor.

What is the risk of developing diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes can appear at any time in someone’s life after the destruction of pancreas cells, which produce insulin. It isn’t clear why they have been damaged but may be triggered by an infection.

Type 2 diabetes usually appears in adults however is frequently being diagnosed in younger overweight people and certain ethnic groups. The risk of its development can be reduced by a change in lifestyle.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes through family genes is much higher than for type 1 diabetes.

Life expectancy

Diabetes is currently the fifth most common reason for death in the world.

Around 1 in 8 people between 20 and 79 years old have their death attributed to diabetes and it is expected to rise.

The life expectancy on average now is reduced by: [5]

  • More than 20 years for people with Type 1 diabetes
  • Up to 10 years for people with Type 2 diabetes

However, these figures are based on historical data, and with improvements in modern care taking place, the figures presented could be subject to change in the coming decades.

The cost of increased diabetes prevalence

It is currently estimated that around 10% of the NHS yearly budget is contributed to the treatment of diabetes. This equates to nine billion a year or rather, £173 million a week.

In 2006, 28.4 million items to treat diabetes were prescribed at a cost of £561.4 million. The trouble is that these costs do not include any additional care prices.

Patients who have had prolonged hospital stay with around 80,000 bed days per year, have affected health services. Furthermore, any illnesses as a result of the condition mean additional treatment is required.

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