Overview: diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition marked by high levels of glucose in the blood. The main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and other diabetes (see Box 4.2). The data from the Census question excludes gestational diabetes and does not collect data on the type of diabetes.

Data from the National Health Survey 2020–21 showed that the most common type of diabetes is type 2 (85.5%), followed by type 1 (11.0%) and type not known by person reporting (4.1%) (AIHW 2023). It is likely that the data presented in this section from the Census is predominantly people living with type 2 diabetes.

Box 4.2: Types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease that can be diagnosed at any age. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be the result of an interaction of genetic and environmental factors. A person with type 1 diabetes needs insulin replacement to survive and, except in cases where a pancreatic or islet cell transplant occurs, insulin will be required every day for the rest of their life. People with type 1 diabetes must also maintain a careful balance of diet, exercise, glucose management and insulin intake.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. The condition has strong genetic and family-related (non-modifiable) risk factors and is also often associated with modifiable risk factors. The exact genetic causes of type 2 diabetes are unknown. People may be able to significantly slow or even halt the progression of the condition through changes to diet and increasing the amount of physical activity (Diabetes Australia 2022).

For more information on diabetes in Australia, including information on risk factors and treatment, see Diabetes: Australian Facts.


AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2023) Diabetes: Australian facts, AIHW website, accessed 26 June 2023.

Diabetes Australia (2022) Type 2 diabetes, Diabetes Australia website, accessed 16 August 2023.