Usually develops in adults over the age of 45

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood because the body is not producing insulin or not using insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone needed for glucose to enter the cells and be converted to energy.

Type 2 diabetes

  • Occurs when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin and the insulin is not working effectively
  • Represents 85 to 90% of all cases of diabetes
  • Risk factors include family history, ethnic background and being overweight, particularly around the waist
  • Lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes
  • Managed with lifestyle and may require diabetes medication as well as insulin therapy


Usually in adults over the age of 45 but it is increasingly occurring at a younger age.


Sometimes symptoms go unnoticed as the disease develops gradually. Symptoms may include any of those for type 1 diabetes plus blurred vision, skin infections, slow healing, tingling and numbness in the feet. Sometimes no symptoms are noticed at all.


Regular physical activity and healthy eating. Over time treatment may progress from lifestyle modification to requiring blood glucose-lowering tablets and/or insulin injections.


Is more likely in people with a family history of type 2
or from particular ethnic backgrounds


Diabetes is the sixth-highest cause of death by disease in Australia.2


People with diabetes are twice as likely to have high blood pressure and also are more likely to have elevated blood fats e.g. cholesterol, triglycerides.3


The Human Burden
  • Diabetes is Australia’s fastest-growing chronic disease 2
  • An estimated 2.45 million Australians have pre-diabetes 2,6
  • One person is diagnosed every 5 minutes 7
  • About 1,160,000 Australians are officially diagnosed with diabetes
  • Diabetes prevalence has increased approximately 7.2% per annum since the year 2000. Based on this, by 2018, Diabetes NSW expects the number of people with diagnosable diabetes to total approximately 2.65 million 7
  • The total number of people with diabetes and pre-diabetes at present is 3.61 million 3,6,7
High risk categories

People are at risk of developing diabetes if they are:

  • Over 45 years of age and have high blood pressure or high blood fats (cholesterol and/or triglycerides)
  • Over 45 years of age and overweight
  • Over 45 years of age and one of more members of the family has/had diabetes (People with a family history of diabetes have 2 to 6 times the risk of developing type 2)
  • Over 55 years of age
  • Have heart disease or had a heart attack
  • Have/had high blood glucose levels during pregnancy (Gestational Diabetes)
  • Have pre-diabetes: Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG) or Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT)
  • Have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Over 35 years of age and of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. Indigenous Australians have 3-4 times the risk of developing diabetes of non-Indigenous Australians 2. In 2000-01, death rates from diabetes among Indigenous Australians were almost 15 times as higher than other Australians 3
  • Over 35 years of age and from a Pacific Islands, Indian subcontinent and/or Chinese background (Australians born in certain overseas countries have a higher prevalence of diabetes than people born in Australia) 3
They are two times more likely to have cardiovascular disease, e.g. heart disease and stroke 3


One in four Australian adults have diabetes or impaired glucose metabolism 2

People with diabetes in 2005:
  • 15% were hospitalised with coronary heart disease 2
  • 38,700 Australians were hospitalised for eye complications caused by diabetes 2
  • 90% undergoing a lower limb amputation had a history of ulceration 2
  • 3,400 had amputations (65 amputations per week) 2
  • 11% of people with diabetes have had a heart attack 2
  • 23% died from kidney disease 2
The cost burden
  • Type 2 diabetes costs Australia $14.6 billion per year 8, 9, 10
  • The cost of type 2 diabetes to the community for a person with no complications is $9,100 a year and for a person with complications, the cost is $15,885 8, 9, 10
  • The 4% of people who have diagnosed diabetes account for 12% of the total health costs in Australia 8, 9, 10
Diabetes and heart disease/stroke

Diabetes is also often associated with high blood pressure and high blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) and causes an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Close to 80% of people with diabetes will die from a heart attack or stroke 2.

Diabetes and eye disease

Retinopathy is a major long-term complication of diabetes. It affects about 1 in 4 people with diabetes(4). The development of retinopathy is strongly related to the length of time diabetes has been present and the degree of blood glucose control. Regular eye checks and treatment can help prevent retinopathy-caused blindness.

Diabetes and kidney disease

Diabetes is the fastest-growing cause of kidney failure. It is the leading cause of end stage renal disease (ESRD). About 30% of people with diabetes will develop kidney disease 5.

Diabetes and lower limbs

Neuropathy or peripheral nerve disease and blood vessel damage may lead to leg ulcers and serious foot problems from which limb amputation may result.


1 Diabetes Atlas. IDF, 2011
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013
3 Diabetes: Australian Facts. AIHW, 2011
4 Vision Australia Foundation
5 International Diabetes Federation, 2009

6 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013
7 NDSS, 2013
8 Prevention, Prevention, Prevention; A National Diabetes Strategy and Action Plan; Diabetes Australia, 2013
9 DiabCost. Diabetes Australia, 2003
10 DiabCo$t Australia: Type 1. Diabetes Australia, 2009