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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Comorbidity refers to the existence of multiple health conditions in a single person. People with diabetes often have at least one comorbid chronic disease [24]. This degree of comorbidity is partly explained by the fact that over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves [1], and that cardiovascular disease and diabetes share risk factors such as inadequate physical activity, poor nutrition and obesity [25].

People with diabetes have twice the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as the general population. They also have earlier onset of CVD and are more resistant to treatment and therapies, than people without diabetes. People with diabetes have higher rates of mortality with their first cardiovascular event and poorer outcomes in the months and years following such an event [26].

In 2007-08, people with diabetes aged under 45 years were 5 times as likely to have high cholesterol and around 15 times as likely to have hypertension as people without diabetes. They were also more than twice as likely to have a mental or behavioural problem as those without diabetes.

People with diabetes aged 45 years and over were around 3 times as likely to have heart disease and high cholesterol and twice as likely to have hypertension as people without diabetes (Graph 8).

Graph 8 - Proportion of people with and without diabetes, by Selected long-term health conditions

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing retinal disease, cataracts and glaucoma, all leading to a loss of vision or blindness [13]. Around 17% of men and 12% of women with diabetes reported that they had an eyesight problem as a result of their condition. Of those with an eyesight problem, 77% of men and 75% of women saw an eye specialist/optometrist for their diabetes-related eye condition within the past 12 months.