Wales has the UK’s highest prevalence of diabetes

Author: Louise Prime

The number of people in the UK living with diabetes is now more than 4.8 million including those not yet undiagnosed, and will reach about 5.3 million by 2025, Diabetes UK has warned – and it added that research has shown people with type 2 diabetes are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people without diabetes. Wales has the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among the UK nations, much of it associated with excess weight, and Diabetes UK Cymru is calling for sustained investment in services to support people to maintain a healthy weight.

Diabetes UK reported yesterday that 90% of the 3.9 million people currently living with a diagnosis of diabetes have type 2 diabetes – and in addition, it said, nearly a million more people are living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, so the total number is more than 4.8 million. The charity said: “Our data shows a stark increase in the number of people living with a diabetes diagnosis in the UK of more than 100,000 from last year. At this rate the number of people with diabetes, including the undiagnosed population, is expected to rise to 5.3 million by 2025.”

Diabetes UK Cymru also released data showing that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Wales rose from 194,693 to 198,883 over the past year alone, equivalent to a prevalence of 7.6% – the highest in the UK, against the UK average of 6.9% – and it estimated that there could be a further 61,501 more people living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, bringing the total number to over 260,000 (adults). It noted that data from Public Health Wales suggests that more than 60% of adults in Wales are now overweight or obese.

Diabetes UK noted that although several factors contribute to risk – such as age, family history, and ethnicity (people of African-Caribbean, black African or south Asian descent are two to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white people) – obesity is the single greatest risk factor as it is responsible for 80-85% of someone’s risk of developing the condition.

It pointed out that while the number of obese people in England has almost doubled over the past 20 years from 6.9 to 13 million, “government action to tackle obesity appears to have stalled. Under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson the government has consistently failed to publish the results of numerous consultations on the matter”.

The charity added that people with type 2 diabetes are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those without diabetes; 2-2.5 times more likely to experience heart failure; and twice as likely to have a myocardial infarction.

It is calling on the government to honour its manifesto commitment to tackle childhood obesity, make it a top priority to take decisive action in order to stem the tide of obesity, and is urging the government and NHS England to continue their focus on preventing devastating complications, through better care for all people with diabetes.

Chief executive Chris Askew said: “Type 2 diabetes is an urgent public health crisis, and solving it depends on decisive action that’s led by government, supported by industry and delivered across our society. More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes − and the accompanying risk of developing devastating complications − could be prevented or delayed by supporting people to make healthier choices. This includes mandating industry to make food and drinks healthier and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.

“At the same time, we need to help people understand their personal risk of type 2 diabetes and find tailored clinical support to reduce it.”

National director of Diabetes UK Cymru added: “Type 2 diabetes is the urgent public health crisis in Wales, and the only way to solve it is by decisive action and leadership from Welsh government. Wales is the only country in the UK without a diabetes prevention programme…

“We want to see sustained investment in services to support people maintain a healthy weight. However, we are calling on the Welsh government to deliver a comprehensive Diabetes Prevention Plan by working with third sector, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes to reduce the number of people developing the condition in the future. Such approach is vital, if we as a nation are going to beat this public health crisis.”