By 2034 the annual cost of diabetes in the US will be comparable to the market capitalization of Google.
Diabetes comes in two main forms, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is caused by a failure of the body to produce the hormone insulin that helps sugar molecules to be absorbed by your cells. This type of diabetes is commonly caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body attacks the pancreas, the gland that produces insulin, and normally occurs during childhood. The second form is when the body becomes insensitive to insulin; the hormone is still there but the cells no longer respond to it. In the Dutch language this form used to be called ‘ouderdomsdiabetes’ meaning ‘diabetes of old age’. This description is no longer accurate as even teenagers have now been diagnosed with it (1).
Diabetes rates rise with obesity
It is well know that we are in an obesity epidemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there were 1.9 billion adults suffering from overweight (BMI ≥ 25) worldwide in 2014 and of these 600 million can be classified as obese (BMI ≥ 30) (2). Obesity is the most important risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Obese people may have an 80 times higher risk for diabetes than people with a BMI under 22 (3).
Diagnoses are forecast to rise further
Currently, more than 25% of people over 65 years of age in the US suffer from diabetes and according to some projections the number of diagnosed cases could increase 4.5-fold between 2005 and 2050 (4). For the US population as a whole the prevalence, meaning the number of sick people in the population, of diabetes was 14% in 2010 and has been forecasted to increase to about 25% (5). This means that by 2050 the prevalence of diabetes in the US population as a whole would be equal to the current prevalence in those over 65. Putting these percentages in number learns us that the number of patients with diabetes in the US will increase from 23.7 million people in 2009 to 44.1 million by 2034. As a consequence the annual healthcare cost of diabetes will increase from $113 billion in 2009 to $336 billion in 2034 (expressed in 2007 dollars) (6). This would mean that the annual cost of diabetes in the US is comparable to the market capitalization of Google (7). Diabetes prevalence will also increase in other countries. For example, in a recent study the prevalence of diabetes in Sweden was forecasted to increase from 6.8% in 2013 to 10.4% in 2050 (8).
Diabetes rates rise with age too
Several factors explain the future increase in diabetes, first of all being population aging. Given that the prevalence of diabetes increases with increasing age, the aging of the population will increase the number of people suffering from diabetes (9,10). Secondly, better care has resulted in a significant improvement in survival of diabetes patients (8) and this decrease in mortality will result in an increase in the number of people suffering from the disease. Thirdly, the continued increase in obesity incidence will likely result in an increase in diabetes in the future (10).