Diabetes is a chronic condition marked by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is caused by the inability to produce insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels) or to use insulin effectively, or both.

The main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and other diabetes.

For more information on diabetes types, see What is diabetes?

How common is diabetes?

In 2021:

  • an estimated 1 in 20 (5.1% or just over 1.3 million) Australians were living with diagnosed diabetes (prevalence). This includes people with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and other diabetes, but excludes gestational diabetes
  • almost 1 in 5 Australians (19%) aged 80–84 were living with diabetes – almost 30 times as high as for those aged under 40 (0.7%)
  • diabetes was 1.3 times as common in males compared with females, after controlling for age.

Between 2000 and 2021, the number of people living with diabetes in Australia increased almost 2.8-fold, from 460,000 to 1.3 million.

After controlling for age, diabetes prevalence rates have remained relatively stable since 2011 for both males and females (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Prevalence of diabetes from linked NDSS and APEG data, 2000–2021

This chart shows the estimated age–standardised proportion of people living with diabetes based on data from the linked National Diabetes Services Scheme and Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group between 2000 and 2021. The proportion increased from 2.4% in 2000 to 4.3% in 2021 but remained relatively stable between 2015 and 2021.

Type 1 diabetes

Around 58,600 people were newly diagnosed (incidence) with type 1 diabetes between 2000 and 2021. The incidence of type 1 diabetes remained relatively stable across the last 2 decades, fluctuating between 11 and 13 new cases per 100,000 population.  

In 2021, there were 3,000 people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Australia, equating to 12 diagnoses per 100,000 population. 

For more information, see Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Just over 1.3 million people were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in Australia between 2000 and 2021. This was an average of 60,000 people each year.

However, in 2021, the number of people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was well below this average at 45,700, equating to 178 diagnoses per 100,000 population.

There has been a steady decline in the age-standardised incidence rate for type 2 diabetes in Australia between 2000 and 2021, with an overall drop of 43%. Although evidence from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study as reported in The Lancet (2020) shows an overall increase in incidence globally, the observed declining trend has also been reported in a number of other countries (Magliano et al. 2019). The fall in incidence may be due to improved preventive measures such as screening, increased awareness and educational programs leading to behavioural changes and risk factor modification (Magliano et al. 2019; Shrapnel and Butcher 2020).

For more information, see:

Gestational diabetes 

More than 1 in 6 (18% or 53,900) females aged 15–49 who gave birth in hospital in 2021–22 had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, according to the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD).

After adjusting for changes in the age structure of the population over time, the incidence of gestational diabetes more than doubled in Australia between 2012–13 and 2021–22.

The rising incidence of gestational diabetes in the last decade is likely driven by several factors including increasing maternal age, higher rates of maternal overweight and obesity, and a growing proportion of higher risk ethnic groups in the population (Laurie and McIntyre 2020). The introduction of new diagnostic guidelines across all states and territories between 2011 and 2013 is also likely to have contributed towards the increasing rates. 

For more information, see:

Impact of diabetes

Burden of disease

Burden of disease refers to the quantified impact of living with and dying prematurely from a disease or injury and is measured using disability-adjusted life years (DALY). One DALY is equivalent to one year of healthy life lost.

In 2023: 

  • type 1 diabetes was responsible for around 19,000 years of healthy life lost (0.7 DALY per 1,000 population) and contributed to 0.3% of the total disease burden in Australia
  • type 2 diabetes was responsible for around 124,000 years of healthy life lost (4.7 DALY per 1,000 population) and contributed 2.2% to the total disease burden in Australia – the 11th leading specific cause.

The overall rate of burden due to type 1 and type 2 diabetes remained stable between 2003 and 2023, after adjusting for age (AIHW 2023a).

For more information, see Burden of diabetes.


In 2020–21, an estimated $3.4 billion of expenditure in the Australian health system was attributed to diabetes, representing 2.3% of total disease expenditure. The breakdown in expenditure by diabetes type was:

  • type 2 diabetes: 68%
  • type 1 diabetes: 11%
  • gestational diabetes: 2.1%
  • other and unspecified diabetes: 20% (AIHW 2023b).

Note: Numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.

For more information, see Health system expenditure.

Adverse effects in pregnancy

Diabetes in pregnancy, whether pre-existing (that is, type 1, type 2 or other diabetes) or arising as a result of the pregnancy (gestational diabetes), is associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes for the mother and child both during pregnancy, labour and delivery and in the longer term. According to the NHMD, in 2020–21, women with pre-existing diabetes (and to a lesser extent, gestational diabetes) were more prone to complications during pregnancy and intervention in childbirth with higher rates of caesarean section, induced labour, pre-existing and gestational hypertension, and pre-eclampsia compared with women with no diabetes in pregnancy.

Babies of women living with diabetes in pregnancy are also at an increased risk of childhood metabolic syndrome, obesity, impaired glucose tolerance, and type 2 diabetes in later life (Clausen et al. 2007; Kim et al. 2012; Zhao et al. 2016).

For more information, see Pregnancy complications.


Diabetes remains one of the 10 leading causes of death in Australia and was the underlying cause of around 6,000 deaths in 2022. However, it contributed to around 21,900 deaths (11% of all deaths) when associated causes are also considered (84 deaths per 100,000 population).

While diabetes death rates (underlying and/or associated cause) remained relatively stable between 2000 and 2021, a 10.2% increase was recorded between 2021 and 2022, after adjusting for age. This increase should be interpreted in the context of higher overall mortality in 2022, with two-thirds of excess deaths being associated with COVID-19 (ABS 2023b). People with pre-existing chronic conditions are also at higher risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 with diabetes being a pre-existing condition among 15.7% of people who died from the virus (registered until February 2023) (ABS 2023a).

For more information, see Deaths.

Treatment and management of diabetes


In 2020–21, there were over 16.5 million prescriptions dispensed for diabetes medicines, representing 5.3% of total prescriptions. Metformin, a glucose-lowering medication for patients living with type 2 diabetes, was the seventh most dispensed medicine (Department of Health and Aged Care 2021).

According to the National (insulin–treated) Diabetes Register (NDR), 31,700 people began using insulin to treat their diabetes in 2021. Among the people with diabetes who initiated insulin use, 49% had type 2 diabetes, 39% had gestational diabetes, 10% were newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and 2% had other forms of diabetes.

For more information, see Medicines use.

Hospitalisations and procedures

Of the 1.2 million hospitalisations that were associated with diabetes (10% of all hospitalisations in Australia) in 2021–22:

  • 4.7% had diabetes recorded as the principal diagnosis
  • 95% had diabetes recorded as an additional diagnosis
  • 1.1 million had type 2 diabetes recorded as the principal and/or additional diagnosis
  • 62,900 had type 1 diabetes recorded as the principal and/or additional diagnosis. 

People living with diabetes may require procedures to manage their diabetes or treat the complications of diabetes. In 2021–22, there were 3,800 weight loss procedures and 6,300 lower limb amputations undertaken for people with type 2 diabetes.

For more information, see Hospitalisations.

Variation between population groups

The impact of diabetes varies between population groups.

Rates of prevalence, hospitalisation, mortality and burden of disease are, on average, greater among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people, people living in lower socioeconomic areas and people living in Remote and very remote areas. For example:

  • Around 64,100 First Nations adults (7.9%) were living with diabetes in 2018–19. First Nations adults were 2.9 times as likely as non–Indigenous adults to have diabetes, after adjusting for age (ABS 2019).
  • Type 2 diabetes accounted for 2.9% of total disease burden among First Nations people in 2018 (7,000 DALY). The proportion attributed to fatal burden (43%) was lower than non-fatal burden (57%). The burden of disease from type 2 diabetes was 4.1 times as high among First Nations people as non-Indigenous people (AIHW 2021, 2022).
  • Among people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas, there were around 6,500 deaths where diabetes was the underlying or associated cause in 2022 (125 per 100,000 population). The diabetes death rate among this group was 2.3 times as high as for people living in the highest socioeconomic areas, after adjusting for age.
  • Among people living in Remote and very remote areas, there were 47,600 diabetes hospitalisations in 2021–22 (19,200 per 100,000 population). People living in these areas were 2.5 times as likely to be hospitalised for diabetes as people living in Major cities, after adjusting for age.

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on diabetes, see: 

For more on this topic, visit Diabetes.