Diabetes was once a problem of the rich. Now it belongs to the poor.
As the global diabetes rate soared over the past quarter-century, the affected population transformed: What was once predominantly a rich-country problem has become one that disproportionately affects poorer countries.
That's one of the many conclusions of the World Health Organization's first global report on the chronic disease. Worldwide, diabetes rates nearly doubled, from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014. Roughly one in 12 people living in the world today have the disease, which has spread dramatically.
“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: To eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said in a statement. “Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.”
Most of the 422 million adults living with diabetes are, in fact, in poorer countries, the WHO found.
The disease has spread unequally, too.
Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence rose faster in low- and middle-income countries than high-income ones.
As the chart below shows, diabetes prevalence in high-income countries rose from just over 5 percent to about 7 percent.
Low-income countries saw rates grow from just over 3 percent to more than 7 percent, overtaking high-income countries for the first time within the past decade.
That switch is likely linked to other factors, such as rising global obesity, says Etienne Krug, director of the