Australians show a remarkable complacency towards diabetes according to a new survey

Nearly 80 per cent of Australians don’t think they are at risk of developing diabetes despite evidence that over 2 million Australians have pre-diabetes and are at high risk, and many more Australians are at medium risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said the disconnect between public perception of risk and reality is a major concern. “280 Australians develop diabetes every day – nearly 100,000 Australians developed diabetes in the past year. The continuing rise of this epidemic and the high impact on everyday Australians cannot be ignored.”

To coincide with National Diabetes Week 14–20 July, Diabetes Australia is launching a new campaign urging all Australians and governments to act.

The Face of Diabetes – the theme of the new campaign aims to raise awareness of all types of diabetes, the continuing rise of the epidemic, and the very significant financial implications of the diabetes epidemic and need for the Australian Government to urgently develop and implement a new National Diabetes Strategy.

Professor Johnson said: “All types of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes show worrying increases in prevalence.”

“There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes. All types of diabetes are serious and can lead to serious complications. For example, heart attacks and strokes kill people with diabetes early and are four times more likely in people with diabetes.”

“On current trends diabetes will become the no. 1 burden of disease in Australia in the next 5 years. Type 2 diabetes currently costs the Australian community $14.6 billion a year. This will double to $30 billion in 12 years if we don’t adopt stronger approaches to preventing diabetes and its complications” Professor Johnson said.

Professor Paul Zimmet AO, a member of the Expert Committee which helped prepare the recently released National Diabetes Strategy for Diabetes Australia set out the five key goals, all of which focus on prevention:

  1. Prevent complications – through optimal management and earlier diagnosis
  2. Prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes.
  3. Reduce the impact of diabetes in pregnancy for women and children
  4. Reduce the impact of diabetes on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  5. Strengthen prevention through knowledge and evidence.

Professor Zimmet said: “Diabetes Australia is calling for national targets for the health system to focus on prevention of diabetes and its complications.

He said that “Diabetes begets diabetes”, hence the focus on diabetes in pregnancy and the increased risk for the children which can be intergenerational. The strategy also focuses on our Indigenous communities as they have one of the highest rates of diabetes, and its devastating complications, in the world.

Professor Stephen Colagiuri, a member of the Expert Committee, explained that the National Diabetes Strategy also aims to prevent more Australians from developing type 2 diabetes. He noted this should be financially supported by government, health insurers, employers and workers compensation insurers with the aim of reduced health and disability costs and increased workplace productivity.

“Data from the AusDiab study indicates over 2 million Australians including large numbers of workers have pre-diabetes putting them at high risk of type 2 diabetes. Prevention of type 2 diabetes in this population is proven, possible and powerful – Australia needs to put in place a national prevention program”.

“Leadership is urgently needed from the incoming government to take on this National Diabetes Strategy, to develop and implement it over coming years.” said Professor Colagiuri. “It is Australia’s No 1 health challenge in coming decades”.

Diabetes Australia is the national body for people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk, and is committed to reducing the impact of diabetes working in partnership with consumers, health professionals and researchers.

About to campaign:

The Face of Diabetes in Australia shows the diverse personal stories of people living with all type of diabetes and encourages people to mobilise governments to take on the new National Diabetes Strategy and Action Plan The campaign urges Australians to:

  • Visit the campaign website
  • Write to the Health Minister and their local member of parliament
  • Assess their type 2 diabetes risk
  • Call Diabetes Australia’s Infoline: 1300 136 588.

About the research

According to a recent Newspoll survey, nearly 80 per cent of Australians don’t think they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next few years, 7.7 per cent already know they have diabetes and 11.5 per cent recognise they will probably develop type 2 diabetes in the next few years.

The real story is very different. Victorian WorkHealth data released earlier this year show that 43 per cent of workers were identified to be at medium risk of type 2 diabetes and 24 per cent were identified at high risk of type 2 diabetes in the next 5 years. These risks were much higher in men and in blue collar workers.

Increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes and its complications can have a significant impact on worker health and productivity.

For more information or interview: 
Lyn Curtis, 0411 019 924,
Shannon Crane, 0478 029 929