One in four people with diabetes, an estimated 940,000, are unaware of their condition according to a new Diabetes Prevalence Model, produced by the Public Health England (PHE) National Cardiovascular Intelligence Network (NCVIN) and launched today at the PHE Conference at Warwick University, which estimates the total number of adults with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in England.
Whilst 3.8 million people are estimated to have both types of diabetes, approximately 90% of diabetes cases are type 2; this is largely preventable or manageable by lifestyle changes and also provides additional benefits for health and wellbeing. The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is increased by being overweight (although family history, ethnicity and age can also increase risk).
The figures reiterate that diabetes is an increasing burden of ill health, underlining the need for urgent action to lessen the impact on individuals, as well as the health and social care system supporting them. The disease can lead to serious complications including foot amputation and kidney disease, and is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer at PHE, said:
"The number of people with diabetes has been steadily increasing and tackling it is fundamental to the sustainable future of the NHS. Diabetes can be an extremely serious disease for those that have it and treating it and its complications costs the NHS almost £10 billion a year.
"Developing type 2 diabetes is not an inevitable part of aging, we have an opportunity through public health to reverse this trend and safeguard the health of the nation and the future of the NHS."
The proportion of people who have diabetes increases with age: 9% of people aged 45 to 54 have diabetes, but for over 75s it is 23.8%. Diabetes at older ages has even bigger health implications as people are more likely to be suffering from other diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases.
Diabetes is more common in men (9.6% compared with 7.6% women) and people from south Asian and black ethnic groups are nearly twice as likely to have the disease compared with people from white, mixed or other ethnic groups, (15.2% compared to 8.0%). Based on current population trends, by 2035 4.9 million people will have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes currently costs the NHS £8.8 billion each year and tackling the rise in the disease is vital to the sustainable future of the health service.
To help tackle the problem, the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP) was launched by PHE, NHS England and Diabetes UK earlier this year. The programme, now available to nearly half the country, will help those at high risk of Type 2 diabetes reduce their risk of developing the condition, by being offered a referral to an improved diet, weight loss and increased physical activity programme. The NHS DPP will have full coverage across England by 2020. By then, up to 100,000 people will have access to its services each year.
Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, added:
"These new estimates clearly show the scale of diabetes and the huge impact on people living with the condition. Too often they only find out they have the disease after they have developed serious complications, such as heart or kidney disease, or foot problems which can lead to amputations.
"Avoiding or delaying such devastating complications depends on people getting diagnosed earlier, so they get help and support to manage their condition well. We urge people over 40 to attend their NHS Health Check when invited. We also want people to take the necessary steps to find out their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, such as using Diabetes UK’s online Know Your Risk tool."
Alongside the NHS DPP, there are other healthcare programmes aimed at supporting adults to live healthily. The NHS Health Check, provides health advice to 40 to 74 year olds previously undiagnosed any condition. It checks circulatory and vascular health, the risk of ill health and provides advice and support to help lower risk and improve health.
Earlier this year, PHE launched One You, a campaign to support adults across the country to avoid future diseases caused by modern day lifestyles. It provides a range of tools and advice to help people take action on everyday behaviours such as eating too much unhealthy food or continuing to smoke, all of which are major contributing factors to lifestyle related diseases like type 2 diabetes.