4820.0.55.001 - Diabetes in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/09/2011   
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Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition in which the body is deficient in producing or using insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose levels [1]. People with diabetes have difficulty converting glucose from foods such as breads and cereals into energy, which leads to high levels of blood glucose (also known as hyperglycaemia). Prolonged hyperglycaemia can result in a range of complications, including slow-healing cuts and sores, decreased vision and nerve damage causing cold or insensitive feet [2]. If left undiagnosed or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, limb amputations or blindness. Diabetes has a significant impact on the well-being of individuals and their ability to fully participate in their community, and has the potential to reduce quality of life and life expectancy [3].

There are three main types of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterised by a severe lack of insulin produced in the pancreas, and is most commonly diagnosed from early childhood to the late 30's. People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin replacement for survival. Type 2 diabetes is characterised by insufficient levels of insulin or the body's ineffective use of insulin and develops most often in middle or older age. Gestational diabetes is characterised by higher blood glucose levels appearing for the first time during pregnancy in women not previously diagnosed with other forms of diabetes. This type of diabetes is generally short-term but may precede the development of Type 2 diabetes [3].

The number of people worldwide with diabetes is increasing, with an estimated two people developing diabetes every 10 seconds [4]. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas estimates that diabetes prevalence for 2010 has risen to 285 million people, representing 6.6% of the world's adult population. (The rate of diabetes in Australia (3.8%) is relatively low compared with North America and the Caribbean (10.2%), Middle East and North Africa (9.3%), and South East Asia (7.6%)). By 2030, around 438 million people worldwide are projected to have diabetes [5].

This article presents data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2007-08 National Health Survey, the 2009 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, and the 2009 Causes of Death collection to examine the prevalence of long-term, current diabetes in Australia and the characteristics of people with this condition.

For the purposes of the article, 'diabetes' refers to self-reported, long-term, current, medically diagnosed diabetes mellitus; that is, where people have reported being told by a doctor or nurse that they have diabetes, the condition is current and has lasted or is expected to last for six months or more. Gestational diabetes is excluded as it is not a long-term condition.

Detailed data tables for the information in this article can be found in the downloads section of this publication.