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From 1989–90 to 2011–12, the prevalence of diabetes more than doubled, from 1.5% to 4.2% of Australians. However, diabetes prevalence remained stable between 2007–08 (4.1%) and 2011–12 (4.2%).

Why is this an important indicator for diabetes?

The prevalence of diabetes (excluding gestational diabetes mellitus) shows the burden of diabetes in the community. This indicator compares the proportion of people with diabetes among:

  • 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.

It also looks at how these proportions have changed over time.

What are the results?

The general population

Between 1989–90 and 2011–12, the age-standardised prevalence of diabetes more than doubled, from 1.5% to 4.2% of Australians (Figure 1). However, the age-standardised prevalence of diabetes remained relatively stable between 2007–08 (4.1%) and 2011–12 (4.2%). This means that the proportion of the total Australian population with diabetes was relatively unchanged over this period. But the total number of people with diabetes continued to increase, from around 898,800 in 2007–08 to around 999,000 in 2011–12.

Figure 1: Trend in the prevalence of diabetes, 1989–90 to 2011–12

indicators-prevalence-fig1 PNG

Notes

  1. Directly age-standardised to the 2001 Australian standard population.
  2. Based on self-reported data.

Sources:AIHW analysis of ABS NHS 1989–90, 1995, 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 NHS (reissue) and ABS 2011–12 Australian Health Survey data (Release 7 June 2013). Table 2

Other population groups

From 1995 to 2007–08:

  • The prevalence of diabetes rose in all population groups (Table 1).
  • Rates of diabetes were fairly similar across geographic regions.

Between 2001 and 2004–05, the prevalence of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was more than three times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

Diabetes prevalence rates among these population groups are not yet available for 2011–12.

Table 1: Prevalence of diabetes, 1995 to 2007–08
Population groups 1995 2001 2004–05 2007–08
Indigenous status
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples n.a 11.2 12.7 n.a
Non-Indigenous people n.a 3.3 3.8 n.a
Culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
Born in Australia 2.1 3.2 3.6 4.0
Overseas born population 3.1 3.5 4.3 4.3
Geographic areas
Major cities 2.5 3.4 3.8 3.9
Inner regional n.a 3.0 3.9 4.4
Outer regional and remote n.a 3.5 4.0 4.9
non-Major cities 2.2 3.2 3.9 4.5

n.a = not available.

Notes  

  1. Directly age-standardised to the 2001 Australian standard population.
  2.  Based on self-reported data.
  3. Diabetes by Indigenous status includes both diabetes and high blood sugar levels.
  4. The ABS NHS excludes persons living in very remote areas of Australia.

Sources: AIHW 2011 analysis of ABS NHS 1995, 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 (reissue), ABS NHS–IS 2001 and NATSIHS 2004–05.

Diabetes by type

In 2011–12, an estimated 999,000 Australians had been told by a doctor or a nurse that they had diabetes at some time in their lives (based on self-reported data). Of these:

  • around 119,000 people (or 11.9% of those with diabetes) had Type 1 diabetes, and
  • around 848,000 people (or 84.9% of those with diabetes) had Type 2 diabetes.

What are the data sources?

There are three main data sources:

  • The 1989–90, 1995, 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 (reissue) Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (NHS) (ABS cat. no. 4634.0), and 2011–12 ABS Australian Health Survey (AHS) (Release 7 June 2013).
  • The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS), and
  • The 2001 ABS Estimated Resident Population (ERP).

How is this indicator calculated?

All comparisons of diabetes prevalence over time are directly age-standardised to the 2001 Australian standard population.

In each of these population groups:

  • the general population
  • Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people / non-Indigenous people
  • people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background
  • people living in major cities, regional and remote areas

the rates compare

  • numerator: the number of people with diabetes (from the NHS / AHS / NDSS), to
  • denominator: the total number of people in that population group (from the ABS ERP).

Are there any data limitations?

  • Using self-reported data to estimate the prevalence of diabetes tends to underestimate the size of the problem. This is because some forms of diabetes do not have obvious symptoms and can go undiagnosed for many years.
  • Differences in collection methods between surveys affect the ways these data can be compared. Changes in public awareness of diabetes over time may also affect prevalence rates over time.
  • Currently, some limitations in the data prevent comparisons between groups with different socio-economic status.
  • Country of birth has been used as a proxy for cultural and linguistic diversity. This measure does not fully represent the complexity of cultural diversity in Australia.

Definitions

Prevalence of diabetes is the number or proportion of people with diabetes mellitus in the population at a given time. Females with gestational diabetes are not included in these estimates.

Country of birth has been defined based on the ABS Standard Australian Classification of Countries, 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.

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
AHS
Australian Health Survey
AIHW
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
NATISHS
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey
NDSS
National Diabetes Services Scheme
NHS
National Health Survey
NHS–IS
National Health Survey—Indigenous Supplement

Source data

Table 2: Trend in the prevalence of diabetes, 1989–90 to 2011–12
1989–90 1995 2001 2004–05 2007–08 2011–12
Proportion of Australians (%) 1.5 2.4 3.3 3.8 4.1 4.2

Notes

  1. Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian standard population.
  2. Based on self-reported data.

Sources: AIHW analysis of ABS NHS 1989–90, 1995, 2001, 2004–05 and 2007–08 NHS (reissue) and ABS 2011–12 Australian Health Survey data (7 June release).