About 700,000 Australians, or nearly 4% of the population, had clinically diagnosed diabetes in 2004-05, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'But it's likely that a substantial number of cases of diabetes go undiagnosed,' the AIHW's Lynelle Moon said.
The AIHW report, Diabetes: Australian Facts 2008, contains the most recent national data on prevalence, incidence, risk factors, and complications of diabetes. The report shows that overall, between 1989 and 2005, the proportion of people with diagnosed diabetes more than doubled, and either caused or contributed to 1 in 11 deaths in Australia in 2005.
Some population groups, such as the least well-off and Indigenous Australians, had significantly higher diabetes hospitalisation and death rates than the general population. People born in South-East Europe, North Africa and the Middle-East had particularly high death rates from diabetes.
'The overall rise in diabetes is largely driven by an increase in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes; however, Type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes are also on the rise,' Ms Moon said.
Diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, amputations, oral health problems and impotence.
In 2004-05 people with diabetes were twice as likely to have had a heart attack, and four times as likely to have had a stroke. Nearly a third of people starting treatment for end-stage kidney disease did so because of their diabetes, and almost 3,400 people with diabetes had lower limb amputations.
Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through following a healthy lifestyle to control modifiable risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
The impact of the serious complications from diabetes can also be reduced through good health care and the control of risk factors.
Just over half of all Australians aged 15 years and over are overweight or obese, but over two-thirds of people with diabetes are overweight or obese.
The report also found that diabetes and its complications were treated in over half a million hospitalisations in 2004-05 and that nearly 2% ($907 million) of total health expenditure in 2004-05 was for diabetes treatment.