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Prevalence of Diabetes in the World, 2013

on Mon, 11/18/2013 - 06:10
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that occurs when the human body is not able to produce enough of the hormone insulin or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. High blood sugar produces symptoms of frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger.
There are three main types of diabetes: 
  1. Type 1 diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin as a result of an auto-immune process with very sudden onset. People with this type of diabetes need insulin therapy to survive. This form was previously referred to as "insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus"
  2. Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. This form was previously referred to as “non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus”. It can go unnoticed and undiagnosed for a long time. Those people affected are unaware of the long-term damage being caused by the disease.
  3. Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women without a previous diagnosis of diabetes develop a high blood glucose level; it can lead to serious risks to the mothers and her infant and increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
All types of diabetes should be treated under a close collaboration between patients and healthcare providers in order to prevent long-term complications such as damage to the eyes, kidney, feet and heart. People with diabetes must be treated to avoid early death.
The global prevalence of diabetes in adult population in 2013 is presented in this article. The estimated prevalence of diabetes in adult population (20-79 years old) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) expressed in percentages are used as metrics. An interactive data visualization was designed to explore the data and communicate the findings. Data source is the Sixth edition of the International Diabetes Federation Atlas of Diabetes.  
Globally in 2013, it is estimated that almost 382 million people suffer from diabetes for a prevalence of 8.3%. North America and the Caribbean is the region with the higher prevalence of 11% having 37 million people with diabetes followed by the Middle East and North Africa with a prevalence of 9.2% having 35 million people with diabetes. Western Pacific is the region with higher number of people living with diabetes (138 million), however its prevalence is 8.6%, close to the prevalence of the World. 
In 2013, the top 10 countries with higher prevalence of diabetes are Tokelau (37.5%), Federated States of Micronesia (35%), Marshall Islands (34.9%), Kiribati (28.8%), Cook Islands (25.7%), Vanuatu (24%), Saudi Arabia (23.9%), Nauru (23.3%), Kuwait (23.1%) and Qatar (22.9%).
It is interesting to highlight that 35 out of 219 countries (16% of the total) has very high prevalence of diabetes of 12% or higher. These countries are located mainly in Western Pacific, and Middle East and North Africa regions.
Africa is the region with the lower prevalence of diabetes (4.9%), having Réunion (15.4%), Seychelles (12.1%) and Gabon (10.7%) as the top three countries with higher prevalence and 10 out of 48 countries with prevalence of diabetes higher than the upper quartile (6.3%) prevalence.
Europe has 56 million people with diabetes (8.5%) having Turkey in the upper extreme of prevalence of diabetes with 14.9%, four percentage points higher that Montenegro (ranked #2) with 10.1% of prevalence. 
In North America and Caribbean, Belize (15.9%), Guyana (15.8%) and Curacao (14.5%) are the top three countries with the higher prevalence of diabetes. At the same time, this region presents the highest values of prevalence of IGT with a median of 12%.
The scatter plot at the bottom-right side of the visualization shows the relationship between IGT prevalence and Diabetes prevalence. It is perceptible that globally countries with high prevalence of diabetes tend to have higher IGT prevalence (see those countries located at the top-right quadrant)    
The magnitude and geographic distribution of the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in the World is heterogeneous, having Tokelau with a prevalence of 37.9%, almost 24 times higher than the prevalence of Mali (1.6%), the country with the lower prevalence of diabetes.
The information presented briefly in this article demonstrates the relevance of diabetes, one of the fastest-growing health problem in the World, which is reaching epidemic proportion in some regions, as consequence of life-style, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, obesity and overweight. 
People throughout the World are encouraged to learn about risks and warning signs of diabetes, to take actions to prevent the disease and seek healthcare in case they develop diabetes.
Diagnosis of diabetes is both a personal and health system and services responsibility. Diabetes risk assessment and testing most be integrated into primary health care with universal health coverage.  


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Russian Sphinx's picture

Colour legend being a chart is a perfect idea

Ian's picture

Great article, but I have read that UAE has one of the highest rates of diabetics. Or, are the stats blended together with Saudi Arabia?

[linked remove by editor]

martiner's picture

Dear Ian,
Thanks for your comment.
Estimates of diabetes prevalence from International Diabetes Federation (IDF), as displayed in the data visualization, confirm that United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the highest prevalence rate. UAE is ranked #15 with prevalence of diabetes of 18.9% and it is in the group of countries (35 countries) with prevalence rate higher than 12%.
However, Saudi Arabia has a higher rate (23.9%) that UAE (18.9%). UAE data is not blended with Saudi Arabia
Xavier Vela's picture

I would like to know what will be the best way to reference this article for future research studies.


martiner's picture

Thanks Xavier for your comment.


Martinez R. Prevalence of Diabetes in the World, 2013. Health Intelligence. 2013 Nov 18.

J'Marinde Shephard's picture

My question (in multiple and repeated searches) was "Which country in the world has the lowest rate of Diabetes," and it seems no one wants to reveal that. Why not and will you?

martiner's picture

Dear J'Marinde Shephard,

Thanks you for your question and interest to learn which is the country with the lowest prevalence of Diabetes.

The good news is that interacting with this data visualization your are able to find the answers to that question.

There is differents ways to find the answer, I will just one of them. The dot plot chart, located at left side bellow the map, shows the prevalence of diabetes by country sorted descending by the level of prevalence. Scroll down the chart and go to the very last country, and you will see that Mali with a prevalence of 1.58% is the country with the lowest prevalence rate of diabetes.

I hope this helps



Dave's picture

You should separate out the types of diabetes in the viz (maybe make it a filter). Type 1 and Type 2 are very different diseases. Trying to lump them together doesn't make sense in this analysis. Type 1 only represents 5% of all diabetes cases and has different causes and different treatments.

Joe's picture

I agree with this comment as I'm specifically interested in type 1 incidence.

zainab's picture

can't i get facts regarding the year 2014/2015

Miguel Chavez Garcia's picture

Great job . Congratulations

Hanan AlBurno's picture


Thank you for the analysis.

Where I can find more information the prevalence of diabetes in young adults (great than 14 years to 19). all what I could found is prevalence in children (0 to 14) and in adults (20-79). Many thanks

Miguel Gonzalez's picture

Estimado Ramon: Muchas felicidades, excelentes productos pero sobre todo claros. Te felicito por tu perspectiva profesional y desarrollo personal. Desde Guadalajara MEXICO

martiner's picture

Estimado Miguel,

Muchas gracias por tus palabras sobre los productos que publico en mi blog personal Health Intelligence. 

Me ha dado muho gusto leer tu comentario. 

Un abrazo,

Jim's picture

I was wondering if the fundamental data is correct. For the top-5 countries for example I doubt that the sample is large enough or counts the overall population statistics correctly. Perhaps only the registered patients have been counted as real patients or the patients that had access to health services. Healthy people, or people not having diabetes may not have access to health services therefore the sample might be erroneous.

Mark Terzano's picture

I can see that a large concentration of the countries with the highest level of diabetes are islands.

Igor's picture

Thank you for these fantastic data and visualizations. When comparing prevalence of IGT and diabetes, we see that Saudi Arabia is the strongest outlier. What could be the explanation?

A question I am especially interested in is the following: Type-2 diabetes is contributed by genetics and life-style. Is it possible to find out which component of the 2 has the largest influence by country?

martiner's picture


Thank you for your question. These data don't allow us to answer your question. An specific epidemiological study is required to certainly answer yor question. 

I think that life style (including physical activity) and risk factors such as diet are the most important contributors to Diabetes in most of the countries.

I hope this helps


Elina 's picture

I'm an undergraduate student of Nutrition, currently doing a research on diabetes. This info has been helpful. Thank you very much.

Lua Olaghere's picture

It is clear that small island states and Arab countries stand out when it comes to high prevalence rates. Are there any common links between the two types of countries. Why are prevalence rates so high in these two types of countries?

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