1 in 3 adults could have diabetes by 2050

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 10 adults in the United States has diabetes. That number is expected to rise to as much as 1 in 3 by the middle of this century if current trends continue. All the increase could be attributed to type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable.

In the chart, researchers used “person years” rather than just “years” because it handles situations where the amount of observation time differs between people, or when the population at risk varies with time.

The agency cites the aging population, increases in minority groups that are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, and even the fact that people with diabetes are living longer with the disease. These projections are higher than previous estimates because they factor in aging, minority populations, and lifespans.

The CDC and health plans should be worried.

“These are alarming numbers that show how critical it is to change the course of type 2 diabetes,” says Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, says, “These numbers are worrisome. But health plans have pioneered programs that promote wellness and healthy living. They are well positioned to help patients who are suffering from diabetes and they see a patient’s entire interaction with the health care system — they see every doctor visit and they see every prescription that gets filled.”

Projected incidence of diabetes through 2050

Historical incidence rates range from 3.3 cases per 1,000 in 1980 to 7.8 in 2007. The middle incidence scenario increases steadily from 8.4 in 2008 to 14.7 in 2050. The cumulative incidence is the number of new cases within a specified time period divided by the size of the population initially at risk.

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