A new study, conducted at the University of East Anglia, examines the global economic impact of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes.
The research, published in PharmacoEconomics, found that people in poor countries who cannot afford health insurance face the highest cost.
What is meant by “global economic impact?”
“Global economic impact” refers to every cost – direct or indirect – incurred by diabetes. Direct costs include hospital visits, medication, and the cost of scientific testing for new treatments.
Indirect costs refers to lost work hours and early retirement caused by diabetes.
The prevalence of diabetes
Diabetes is thought to affect around 382 million people. And that number is constantly increasing. By 2035, it is estimated that 592 million people will have diabetes. 90 per cent of cases are type 2 diabetes.
The global impact of diabetes on healthcare is a concer, but accurate statistics on its worldwide economic effects are rare.
Till Seuring, the study’s lead author, said: “[Diabetes] is a chronic disease that has spread widely in recent decades – not only in high-income countries, but also in many populous low and middle-income countries such as India and China.
“The rising prevalence of diabetes in these countries has been fuelled by rapid urbanisatio, changing eating habits, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.”
The study
Researchers conducted a review of all previous studies that have examined the issue of diabetes’ economic impact. The studies used date back as far as 2001.
The study focused primarily on the global economic costs of type 2 diabetes, because of its sharp, consistent increase.
What did the study find?
The researchers found that two-thirds of type 2 diabetes cases are now diagnosed in low-income and middle-income nations. Mexico, India, China, and Egypt were some of the most profoundly affected countries.
People with type 2 diabetes in these countries faced higher personal costs as a result of their diabetes. In high-income countries, people with type 2 diabetes faced far lower costs.
While health insurance coverage reduced the personal costs of type 2 diabetes, it is not affordable for most people in low- to middle-income countries.
Seuring said: “In high-income countries the burden often affects government or public health insurance budgets, while in poorer countries, a large part of the burden falls on the person with diabetes and their family due to very limited health insurance coverage.
“Our results show a considerable impact of diabetes in terms of costs to society, health systems, individuals and employers.
“This research provides a comprehensive picture of the economic impact of diabetes in poorer countries. The results show that people in these countries are worst off because the economic burden on their livelihoods is much greater.”
In which country were type 2 diabetes health costs highest?
Type 2 diabetes is most expensive in the USA, compared to similarly wealthy countries, the researchers found. The average health cost of type 2 diabetes in the USA is $283,000.
American women were particularly affected by type 2 diabetes. In addition to losing $21,392 per year as a result of type 2 diabetes, they were also 50 per cent less likely to find work.
Globally, however, the lives of men tend to be more significantly affected by type 2 diabetes. In Taiwa, men were 19 per cent less likely to find work as a result of their type 2 diabetes.
What do the findings mean?
“Our findings underline the fact that diabetes not only has strong adverse effects on people’s health but also presents a large – and at least partly avoidable – economic burde,” said Seuring.
“For both rich and poor countries, the results mean that better prevention and management of diabetes has the potential to not only bring good health but also economic gains.”

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