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In 2007–08, 10.7% of people with diabetes reported having long-term loss of vision.

In 2004–05, 19% of Indigenous people with diabetes had long-term vision loss.

Why is this an important indicator for diabetes?

Eye diseases such as retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma are common in people with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 30–69 years. The risk of eye disease for people with diabetes rises with age and the duration of their diabetes. The risk rises even more if they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, they smoke, or if they have kidney disease.

This indicator shows trends in the prevalence of long term vision loss among people with diabetes in:

  • the general population
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • non-Indigenous people
  • people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and
  • people living in different geographic areas.

What are the results?

General population

In 2007–08 almost 96,000 (10.7%) people with diabetes had long-term visual loss (Figure 1).

  • In 2001, 15.3% of people with diabetes had long-term vision loss, compared to 13.8% in 2004–05 and 10.7% in 2007–08.

Figure 1: Prevalence of long-term visual loss among people with diabetes, 2001 to 2007–08

Indicators - loss of vision GIF

Note: Directly age standardised to the 2001 NHS diabetes population.

Sources: AIHW 2011 analysis of ABS NHS 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 (reissue).

Other population groups

In 2007–08:

• Over 19,000 (19%) people with diabetes living in outer regional and remote areas had long-term visual loss (Table 1). 7% of those living in inner regional areas had long-term vision loss, while 11% living in major cities had long-term vision loss.

• Over 43,000 (12%) people with diabetes born overseas had long-term visual loss. Only 9% of people with diabetes born in Australia had long-term vision loss.

Between 2001 and 2007–08, the prevalence of long-term visual loss changed among:

  • People with diabetes who live in major cities (16% to 11%), inner regional areas (15% to 7%), and outer regional and remote areas (12% to 19%).
  • People with diabetes who were born in Australia, from 17% to 9%. Rates of vision loss among people with diabetes who were born overseas remained relatively steady.

Between 2001 and 2004–05, rates of long-term vision loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with diabetes changed from 15% to 19%, while rates of long-term vision loss among non-Indigenous Australians with diabetes changed from 12% to 9%.

Table 1: Prevalence of long-term visual loss among people with diabetes (per cent)
Population groups 2001 2004–05 2007–08
All people with diabetes 15.3 13.8 10.7
Indigenous status
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 15.0 18.7 n.a.
Non-Indigenous people 12.3 9.6 n.a.
Country of birth
Born in Australia 16.6 14.4 9.3
Overseas-born population 12.9 12.7 12.4
Geographic areas
Major cities 15.8 13.4 10.8
Inner regional 14.8 12.5 7.2*
Outer regional and remote areas 11.8* 18.0* 19.0*
non-Major cities 15.1 14.5 10.8

* These estimates have a relative error of 25–50% and should be used with caution.

Notes

  1. Rates are for people with diabetes.
  2. Directly age-standardised to the 2001 NHS diabetes population.
  3. Indigenous rates are directly age-standardised to the 2001 NHS Indigenous diabetes population.
  4. The ABS NHS excluded persons living in very remote areas of Australia.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS NHS 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 NHS (Reissue), ABS NHS–IS 2001 and ABS NATSIHS 2004–05.

What are the data sources?

The main data sources are:

  • The 2001, 2004–05, and 2007-08 (Reissue) Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (NHS) (ABS cat. no. 4634.0).
  • The ABS's National Health Survey – Indigenous Supplement (NHS–IS) 2001 (ABS cat. no. 4715.0), and
  • The ABS's National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) 2004-05 (ABS cat. no. 4715.0).

How is this indicator calculated?

The data in this indicator are directly age-standardised to the 2001 NHS diabetes population and presented as the number of cases of visual loss per 100 people with diabetes.

In each of these groups:

  • the general population
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • non-Indigenous people
  • people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • people living in major cities, inner regional, and outer regional and remote areas

the rates compare

  • numerator: the number of people with diabetes and long-term vision loss (from the NHS/NATSIHS), to
  • denominator: the total number of people with diabetes (from the NHS/NATSIHS).

Are there any data limitations?

  • These data come from self-reported responses to the surveys, which may lead to under- or over-reporting of diabetes and vision loss.
  • Differences in collection methods between surveys affect the ways these data can be compared. Changes in public awareness of diabetes and vision loss over time may also affect this.
  • Country of birth has been used as a proxy for cultural and linguistic diversity. This does not fully represent the complexity of cultural diversity in Australia.
  • Data are currently not complete enough to allow analysis of differences between socio-economic groups..

Definitions

Diabetes is only included in this indicator if people have reported they have been told by a doctor or nurse that they have diabetes. It does not include females with gestational diabetes.

Country of birth has been defined based on the ABS NHS, as either Australian-born or overseas-born. Australian-born includes Australia, Norfolk Island and Australian External Territories. Overseas-born includes all other countries/regions and those that were not stated or inadequately described.

Geographic areas have been defined based on Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA). Three categories are used in this indicator: 'Major cities of Australia', 'Inner regional Australia' and 'Outer regional or Remote Australia' (which is a combination of Outer regional and Remote Australia).

Indigenous status is self-reported.

Vision loss
Table 2 illustrates how vision loss has been defined for this indicator.

Table 2: Definitions of vision loss
National Health Survey 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 National Health Survey 2001, Indigenous supplement and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey 2004–05
Cataract Cataract
Complete or partial blindness/complete blindness (one or both eyes) Complete or partial blindness (one or both eyes)
Other disturbances or loss of vision/other visual disturbances or loss of vision. Other disturbances or loss of vision/other visual disturbances or loss of vision.
Glaucoma

Where can I find more information?

AIHW 2007. National indicators for monitoring diabetes: report of the Diabetes Indicators Review Subcommittee of the National Diabetes Data Working Group. Diabetes series no. 6. Cat. no. CVD 38. Canberra: AIHW.

Abbreviations

ABS
Australian Bureau of Statistics
AIHW
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
NATSIHS
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
NHS
National Health Survey
NHS–IS
National Health Survey – Indigenous Supplement