Approximately 40% of Adults Will Develop Diabetes

An estimated 40% of adults in the United States will develop diabetes in their lifetime, with even higher risks found in Hispanic men and women and non-Hispanic black women, according to data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, people are spending more years with diabetes than in years past, as reported in the August 12 issue of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

“The typical American has about a 40% chance of developing diabetes at some time during their life,” said lead author Edward Gregg, PhD, Chief, Epidemiology and Statistics, Division of Diabetes Translation, CDC, Atlanta, GA. “Even a 60-year-old  without diabetes who is seen in primary care has a one-in-four chance of going on to develop diabetes before they die. These estimates are much higher than previous decades and are due to continued increases in diabetes and increasing lifespans,” Dr. Gregg said.

The authors used data on diabetes incidence from the National Health Interview Survey and linked to information from the National Death Index. The authors analyzed the data in three cohorts: 1985-1989, 1990-1999, and 2000-2011. The data did not differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The lifetime risk of diabetes starting at age 20 years was 40.2% for men and 39.6% for women in 2000-2011—a 20% and 13% increase, respectively, from rates in 1985-1989. The highest risks were found in non-Hispanic black women (55.2%) and Hispanic men and women (51.8% and 51.5%, respectively).

The number of life-years lost to diabetes at age 40 decreased between 1990-1999 and 2000-2011 (from 7.7 to 5.8 years in men and from 8.7 to 6.8 years in women). However, because of the marked increase in diabetes prevalence, the average number of years lost to diabetes in the population as a whole increased by 46% in men and 44% in women. In addition, the number of years spent with diabetes increased over the years by 156% in men and 70% in women. 

Preventing Diabetes-Related Complications Over the Long-Term is a Priority
Thus, Dr. Gregg added, “people who are diagnosed with diabetes are going to live much longer with their disease than in the past, which means that preventive care, for prevention of complications as well as disability, will need to take a long-term view.”

Dr. Gregg hopes that the findings will impact the medical community in two ways.  “First, lifetime risk for the average American can be changed very rapidly if we can lower the incidence of diabetes,” Dr. Gregg said. “This is possible by motivating and helping high-risk patients to prevent diabetes through steady changes in lifestyle, and for the highest risk patients, helping them find structured prevention programs in communities. Second, we can continue to make progress in preventing diabetes complications, so that as people spend more years with diabetes, those extra years have a good quality of life,” he said.

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