Sabrina Tavernise (@stavernise) writes for the New York Times. She reports on a new study about the increasing rate of diabetes across the globe.


The new study, published in The Lancet, reports a “45 percent rise in the prevalence of diabetes worldwide from 1990 to 2013.” The increase is nearly all attributable to Type 2 diabetes, which is generally related to obesity. It’s been known that the rate of diabetes has been rising in more affluent nations for several decades (largely driven by higher obesity rates). Recently, however, less affluent countries – including China, Mexico and India – are seeing higher rates of the disease as well.

In China, the rate of diabetes increased by about 56% over the period studied; in the United States, the rate increased by 71%. Saudi Arabia had the highest prevalence of the disease.

The study was led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is based at the University of Washington. It measured “the burden of disability.” The research project was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study represents the “largest analysis of global disability data to date.” It drew on “more than 35,000 data sources in 188 countries.”

Despite the increase in diabetes, death rates have slowed, in large part due to better medical treatment. However, the disease is costly to treat and is impacting health care systems across the world.

Per Theo Vos, a professor at the University of Washington:


“On balance the burden is coming down — it’s better to be alive, even if you have disability,” he said. “But the downside is that it requires much more health system resources to treat people with these chronic problems.”

Investments in the health systems of low-income countries have long been geared toward treating infectious disease, a pattern that needs to change, he said.


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