Diabetes Prevalence Expected to Double in Next 25 Years

November 27, 2009

By 2034, the number of Americans living with diabetes will nearly double and diabetes spending will nearly triple to $336 billion, even if the prevalence of obesity in this country remains stable, according to a study published in the November issue of Diabetes Care.

A team of researchers led by the University of Chicago constructed a model of diabetes costs accounting for trends in risk factors (such as obesity), the natural history of the disease and the effects of treatments, all of which helped to improve upon forecasts previously used by government budget analysts, who had not previously taken such factors into account. The study was done to help forecast the impact of alternative policy scenarios as Congress debates changes in the health care system, particularly to Medicare.

The study concluded that, over the next 25 years, the number of Americans with diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes would soar from 23.7 million to 44.1 million – nearly doubling. During the same period, annual spending related to diabetes would climb from $113 billion to $336 billion (in 2007 dollars). For those who would be covered by Medicare during this time period, prevalence would rise from 8.2 million Americans to 14.6 million, and associated spending would jump from $45 billion to $171 billion.

The analysis in this model differs from previous projection models by taking into consideration constant changes in the diabetes population over time, such as the aging of the baby boomer generation and recent increase in the incidence of obesity rates in the U.S.; and the natural progression of the disease, such as the development of complications affecting the eyes, kidneys, circulatory and nervous systems.

"We built this model to improve the budgetary and health outcome information available to federal policymakers," the researchers explained. "The model provides a rigorous assessment of the future burden of diabetes that accounts for the natural history of the disease and recent advances in treatment."

"Without significant changes in public or private strategies, this population and cost growth are expected to add a significant strain to an overburdened health care system," the researchers concluded.

To reach lead researcher Dr. Elbert S. Huang, at the University of Chicago, email ehuang@medicine.bsd.uchicago.edu. Interview requests can be made through Susan Bro (615-440-2799 or susan@mediamindsite.com) or Cathleen Savage (301-634-9411 Savage-Cathleen@norc.org).

Diabetes Care, published by the American Diabetes Association, is the leading peer-reviewed journal of clinical research into one of the nation’s leading causes of death by disease.  Diabetes also is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations.

About the American Diabetes Association

Nearly half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes; more than 30 million adults and children have diabetes; and every 21 seconds, another individual is diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. Founded in 1940, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization whose mission is to prevent and cure diabetes, and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The ADA drives discovery by funding research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and works to safeguard policies and programs that protect people with diabetes. In addition, the ADA supports people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes, and the health care professionals who serve them through information and programs that can improve health outcomes and quality of life. For more information, please call the ADA at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn)