The number of adults with diabetes in 2008 doubled to 347 million globally since 1980, a study in the journal Lancet says. That is about 10 percent of the world’s adults, and the prevalence of the disease is rising rapidly.
Researchers from Imperial College London and Harvard University in the U.S. looked at data from 2.7 million people worldwide, using statistical techniques to project a global number, according to BBC News. The study found that found that the diabetes rate had either risen or stayed the same in virtually every country.
Although most of the increase was due to population growth and a larger number of elderly people, increased obesity and inactivity, already strong trends in the U.S. and other wealthy western countries, are contributing to the increase in the disease in developing nations including India and countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, according to the Washington Post.
The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, is a more comprehensive calculation of diabetes prevalence than some previous estimates, according to the Wall Street Journal.
About 138 million adult diabetics live in China and India and another 36 million in the U.S. and Russia. Among wealthier nations, the rise in the disease was highest in North America but relatively small in Western Europe.
The health and prevention costs associated with a trend like this one are likely to be overwhelming.
According to the Washington Post:
“This study confirms the suspicion of many that diabetes has become a global epidemic,” said Frank Hu, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health who was not involved in the research. “It has the potential to overwhelm the health systems of many countries, especially developing countries.”