Europe's growing diabetes epidemic could savage healthcare budgets in coming decades, particularly in eastern countries.
More than 53 million Europeans, or 8.4% of the adult population, have diabetes. New figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) predict the numbers could reach 9.8% of adults by 2025.
Most developed countries spend around 10% of their healthcare budgets on diabetes now. But the illness, which is often linked with obesity, is increasing at the rate of about 7 million new cases a year worldwide. ‘Healthcare budgets will just not be able to cope,’ Martin Silink, president-elect of the IDF told Reuters.
The IDF, which presented its findings at the European diabetes meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, believes Eastern European nations have a higher risk of seeing their economies disrupted by the diabetes epidemic.
Although the prevalence rates in Eastern Europe are similar to those in Western Europe, which range from 2% in Iceland to 11.8% in Germany, their healthcare infrastructure is at risk because of lower economic development and younger patients.
‘What has been seen all around the world is that in developing economies the greatest increase in diabetes is in the productive years of 40-65, whereas in the more mature economies the rate of increase is in older people,’ Silink said.
The result is that employers, health insurance companies and governments could face rocketing costs in treatment, disability costs and social and medical services.
The cost of treating men is particularly high as EMHF director Erick Savoye explained: 'As a result of their unwillingness to seek health advice, many more men than women with diabetes remain undiagnosed. Many millions throughout Europe. Most men are diagnosed at a more advanced stage than women - often by their opthamologist than their GP. This means they've probably had diabetes for eight years or more before diagnosis. This lost time costs money.'
Diabetes is a chronic illness that occurs when the body does not produce enough, or effectively use, insulin. The illness also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney damage and nerve disorders that can lead to foot ulceration and amputations.
Most of the new cases will be Type 2 diabetes, which could be prevented by lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a healthy diet, according to the IDF.
Silink said the international community needs to take the diabetes epidemic more seriously otherwise it will jeopardize the health and lives of millions. ‘It is a global issue. What we are proposing is that there be a recognition by the world community of this epidemic and we have launched a campaign to try and get a United Nations resolution on diabetes,’ he added.