Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition where a hormone known as insulin, essential for the conversion of glucose into energy, is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body. If left undiagnosed or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety or blindness. The two most common forms of diabetes mellitus are Type 1 and Type 2. In 2017, diabetes was ranked seventh in the leading causes of death with 4,839 deaths in Australia.
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.
Who had diabetes in 2017-18?
In 2017-18, one in twenty Australians (4.9% or 1.2 million people) had diabetes. Since 2001, this rate has increased from 3.3%, however, has remained relatively stable since 2014-15 (5.1%).
Diabetes continued to be more common among males than females (5.5% and 4.3% respectively). The prevalence of diabetes has increased for both males and females since 2001 (both 3.3%).
As found with many chronic health conditions, the rate of diabetes increased with age. Since 2001, the rate of diabetes has remained fairly consistent up to age 64 years whilst older adults have experienced increases. The rate of diabetes amongst adults aged 65-74 year olds increased from 12.5% in 2001 to 15.4% in 2017-18. Meanwhile, of adults aged 75 years and over, almost one in five (18.7%) had diabetes in 2017-18; which was an increase from 11.2% in 2001.
Since 2001, the rate of diabetes amongst men aged 65-74 years increased from 11.8% to 18.7% and for those aged 75 years and over from 11.2% to 20.7%. Similarly, the rate of diabetes amongst women has increased for those aged 75 years and over from 11.2% in 2001 to 17.0% in 2017-18.
Which type of diabetes was more prevalent?
Type 2 diabetes was more common than Type 1 diabetes with 4.1% or 1.0 million people having Type 2 diabetes compared with around 145,000 people (0.6%) with Type 1 diabetes in 2017-18. Over the past decade, the proportion of people with Type 2 diabetes has increased from 3.5% in 2007-08. However, the prevalence has remained relatively stable since 2014-15 (4.4%). In contrast, Type 1 diabetes has remained fairly constant; in 2007-08 the rate was 0.4%.
One of the main risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese, as excess body weight can interfere with the body's production of, and resistance to, insulin. A healthy diet can help blood glucose levels and exercise can help insulin work more effectively.
In 2017-18, adults aged 18 years and over who were obese were almost five times as likely as those who were of normal weight to have Type 2 diabetes (9.8% compared to 2.0%). Similarly, adults who were overweight were more than twice as likely to have Type 2 diabetes (4.6% compared to 2.0%) than adults of a normal weight.