Why Diabetes Is Becoming A Problem We Can No Longer Afford

April 7 is World Health Day

April 7 is World Health Day, an annual awareness day for the World Health Organization (WHO) to call attention to an ailment that threatens the global population. The focus for 2016 is diabetes

There are currently 422 million people around the world who have diabetes and the number is expected to double in the next 20 years as obesity rates continue to climb. While there are obvious health-related implications to this grim forecast, there is an enormous financial burden to consider as well.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the cost of the 29 million Americans with diabetes is $245 billion every year and growing.

How is this even possible?


Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to break down sugars in the blood. Left untreated, the complications of diabetes can cause system failures across the body, including kidney failure, poor circulation to the extremities (resulting in the need for amputation), nerve damage, vision impairment, heart disease, neurodegeneration, and  an increased risk of fungal skin infections. 

Diabetics also have a life expectancy that is 10 years lower than their non-diabetic peers, often because it's not managed correctly. 

Because diabetes affects the entire body in such a dramatic way, managing the disease and taking care of complications as they arise costs a significant amount of money. Diabetes also interferes with a person's ability to work, creating indirect costs in the way of lost productivity.

This is how the money breaks down:

Medical Costs: $176 billion

Inpatient hospital visits because of complications - $75.58 billion

Prescription drugs to manage complications - $31.68 billion

Insulin, antidiabetic medications, syringes, and other supplies - $21.12 billion

Visits with primary physician - $15.84 billion

Stays at assisted living facilities - $14.08 billion

On average, a diabetic will spend 57% of their total medical expenses for the year in treating the disease.

Lost Productivity: $68.6 billion

Disability caused by diabetes, preventing the ability to work - $21.6 billion

Reduced ability to be productive while at work compared to non-diabetic peers - $20.8 billion

Lost work productivity because of early death - $18.5 billion

Missed shifts due to medical appointments or hospital stays - $5 billion

Reduced productivity among the unemployed - $2.7 billon

But diabetes doesn't have to be such an incredible burden.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's immune system attacking the cells that produce insulin (most often in early childhood), while type 2 is a resistance to insulin that comes later in life. 90-95% of all diabetes cases are type 2 and the vast majority are preventable. 

The largest risk factor for diabetes is being overweight and obese, another medical condition that is rapidly growing around the world. What's more, people are increasingly getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes younger than ever before.

While there is a genetic component for some that makes developing diabetes more likely, having a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the effects of the disease.

The onset of diabetes can be slowed or prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, following a balanced diet, and maintaining physical activity.

Want to learn more about the effects of diabetes around the world? Check out World Health Day on WHO's website and #WorldHealthDay on Twitter for more information.

Cover image: Shutterstock


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