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Latest Study Shows Diabetes Is Global 'Epidemic' Afflicting 400 Million People

With 382 million affected all over the world, diabetes has become a global epidemic. And if the situation doesn't improve, there could be up to 592 million afflicted with the disease by 2035. Unfortunately, diabetes is a problem that not only concerns the health of the world but also presents a heavy (but avoidable) burden to the global economy.

This is according to a new study carried out by researchers from the University of East Anglia, University of York's Center for Health Economics and the University College London. Supported by the Center for Diet and Activity Research, the study paints a picture of the diabetes situation the world is facing, pointing out that the disease brings not only health problems but economic woes as well.

Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that diabetes-related economic burden is present across all countries, whether classified as having high-, medium- or low-income economies. The disease has always been seen as a health challenge but how it impacts labor markets and the global economy has never been explored before in detail.

According to a review of 109 studies, Americans are dealing with the highest diabetes-related lifetime healthcare costs at an estimated $283,000, an amount higher than what other countries at the same income levels have to pay for. Two thirds of new cases are from low- and middle- income countries and the poorest are the hardest hit by the economic burden of treating diabetes.

The problem with high healthcare costs is complicated by employment opportunities being affected by diabetes. Generally, work opportunities for men diagnosed with the disease are adversely affected, except in the U.S. where women have to deal with an almost 50-percent decrease in employment chances just by having diabetes.

The researchers noted as well that economic burdens related to the disease increase over time so early efforts to prevent and manage the disease will be worthwhile. Aside from improving overall health, allowing an individual to do more and improve their earning ability, patients also have to spend less on healthcare.

"We would hope that the findings further increase the policy attention being paid to diabetes prevention and management in rich countries and it should in particular make health and economic policymakers in developing countries aware of the economic damage that diabetes can do," said Till Seuring, lead researcher for the study.

Diabetes comes in two forms: type 1 and type 2. Those with type 1 diabetes are born with the disease while those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes acquire the condition from poor lifestyle choices.

Photo: Alden Chadwick | Flickr

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