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Contains key statistics and information about diabetes and its prevalence in Australia

Reference period
2017-18 financial year

Key statistics

  • 1.2 million people had diabetes.
  • Diabetes continued to be more common among males than females (6% and 4% respectively).
  • The prevalence of diabetes has increased for both males and females since 2001 (both 3% increase).

Diabetes mellitus

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[1]. 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[2].


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[1], as excess body weight can interfere with the body's production of, and resistance to, insulin[3]. A healthy diet can help blood glucose levels and exercise can help insulin work more effectively[3].

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.

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).  

Data downloads

Table 1: Summary health characteristics, 2001 to 2017–18 - Australia

Table 2: Summary health characteristics, 2017–18 - states and territories

Table 3: Long-term health conditions - Australia

Table 4: Long-term health conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 19: Comorbidity of selected chronic conditions - Australia 

Table 20: New South Wales

Table 21: Victoria

Table 22: Queensland

Table 23: South Australia

Table 24: Western Australia

Table 25: Tasmania

Table 26: Northern Territory

Table 27: Australian Capital Territory

Table 33: Small area estimates

Released 17/04/2020

Additional data cube with modelled small area estimates for persons with chronic health conditions by age for Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2) of usual residence have been added.

All data cubes


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  1. Diabetes Australia, 2018, What is diabetes?, https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/what-is-diabetes; Last accessed 18/10/2018
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2017~Main%20Features~Australia's%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202017~2; last accessed 07/11/2018
  3. Diabetes Australia, 2018, Managing type 2 https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/managing-type-2; Last accessed 18/10/2018 

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.55.001.

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