4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/12/2015   
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Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition where insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose levels, is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body. It significantly affects the health of many Australians and can result in a range of complications, including serious damage to the nerves and blood vessels. If left undiagnosed or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, limb amputations or blindness.


    In this publication, data on diabetes refers to persons who reported having been told by a doctor or nurse that they had diabetes, irrespective of whether the person considered their diabetes to be current or long-term. This definition was first used for estimates of diabetes in Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.003). Estimates of diabetes for all years in this publication are presented using this definition. In earlier publications, persons who had reported having diabetes but that it was not current were not included.

    Data excludes gestational diabetes.

In 2014-15, 5.1% of the Australian population (1.2 million people) had some type of diabetes, an increase from 4.5% in 2011-12.

One million people (4.4%) had Type 2 diabetes in 2014-15, up from 840,000 people (3.8%) in 2011-12. A further 158,900 people (0.7%) had Type 1 diabetes in 2014-15, up from 113,400 people in 2011-12 (0.5%).

More males (5.7%) had diabetes than females (4.6%) in 2014-15, and, as with many health conditions, the rate of diabetes increased with age. Of people aged 75 years and over, almost one in five (18.4%) had diabetes in 2014-15.

Graph Image for Proportion of persons with diabetes mellitus, 2001 to 2014-15

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15

One of the main risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese[1], as excess body weight can interfere with the body's production of, and resistance to, insulin[2]. In 2014-15, adults aged 18 years and over who were obese had higher rates of Type 2 diabetes (11.6%) than adults who were overweight (4.9%), who in turn had higher rates of Type 2 diabetes than adults who were of normal weight (1.9%).

In 2014-15, people living in areas of most disadvantage in Australia had a higher rate of diabetes than people living in areas of least disadvantage (8.2% compared with 3.1%). Similarly, people living in Outer Regional/Remote areas of Australia had a higher rate than people living in Major Cities (6.7% compared with 4.7%).

2011-12 biomedical information

In 2011-12, biomedical information was collected for the first time by ABS, including two tests used to measure diabetes: fasting plasma glucose and glycated haemoglobin (commonly referred to as HbA1c). Diabetes prevalence was derived using a combination of blood test results and self-reported information on diabetes diagnosis and medication use.

Around one in twenty (5.1%) Australians aged 18 years and over had diabetes according to the fasting plasma glucose test and self-reported information. This comprised 4.2% with known diabetes and 0.9% with diabetes newly diagnosed from their test results. This indicates that there was approximately one newly diagnosed case of diabetes for every four diagnosed cases. A further 3.1% of adults had impaired fasting plasma glucose results, which indicates that they were at high risk of diabetes. This means that there were an extra three people at high risk of diabetes for every four people who had been diagnosed with diabetes.

For more information see Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.005).


1 International Diabetes Federation, 2015, Risk Factors, <http://www.idf.org/about-diabetes/risk-factors>; last accessed 07/12/2015.
2 Kahn, B.B & Flier, J.S., 2000, 'Obesity and insulin resistance'. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, <http://www.jci.org/articles/view/10842>; last accessed 01/12/2015.