Diabetes: Australian facts 2008 is the second in the series of national reports providing an overview of diabetes, a serious chronic disease affecting many Australians. The report contains the most recent national data on prevalence, incidence, risk factors, and complications of diabetes. In this edition, a separate chapter on diabetes in specific population groups is also included.

Some of the main findings about the impact of diabetes on the Australian community are given below.

Its prevalence continues to rise. The most recent national data show that the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes more than doubled between 1989–90 and 2004–05. Diabetes and its complications were responsible for around 8% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2003.

It can have severe complications. Notably a person with diabetes is at greater risk of developing cardiovascular, eye and kidney diseases. In 2004–05 people with diabetes were twice as likely as those without it to have had a heart attack and three times as likely to have had a stroke in 1999–2000. People with diabetes were twice as likely to have cataracts or glaucoma as those without diabetes and nearly a third of people starting treatment for end stage kidney disease did so because of diabetic nephropathy.

Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. Control of modifiable risk factors, such as overweight and obesity and physical inactivity, are central to preventing Type 2 diabetes and can help reduce the complications associated with diabetes. However, prevalence of a key risk factor, overweight and obesity, is increasing.

Some population groups are at much higher risk. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 3 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to have diabetes and have much greater hospitalisation and death rates than other Australians. Diabetes prevalence and death rates for the worst-off fifth of the population are nearly twice as high as for the best-off fifth of the population.