Diabetes: the social impact

Let’s take a moment to gain some perspective around diabetes as a disease. It might not be as  globally abundant as cancer or cardiovascular diseases, but it certainly is life-threatening. Type 1 diabetes affects everyone, it does not care for social status, type 2 diabetes however is a different story. Type 2 diabetes is especially gaining concern as the number of patients keep rising. There seems to be a proportional increase in type 2 diabetes patients together with people diagnosed with obesity. Wealth has a lot to do with this disease. People living in deprived areas have 50% more chance to develop diabetes compared to people with higher incomes. Indeed there are “powerful underlying societal factors behind the diabetes epidemic”.

It is often the poor, those with limited resources and virtually no healthcare, that suffer the consequences of the disease the most. In low-income countries, up to one in six people get diagnosed with diabetes.

It comes as no surprise that diabetes and obesity go hand in hand. People from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be exposed to risk factors. They have better access to energy-rich and processed foods and usually don’t exercise enough either. Food companies play an important role in this.

So not only are the poor more likely to be exposed to a ‘obesogenic’ environment, they also usually can’t afford the treatment once they develop the disease.

Moreover, women who are exposed to bad nutrition during pregnancy can cause the child to be more vulnerable towards the disease later in life.

Other implications might be a decrease in quality of life and life expectancy, economical struggle, unemployment, etc.

Trying to diagnose diabetes in the earlier stages, preventive actions and the use of effective modern therapies could cut back the social costs of diabetes.

In my own opinion, people need to drastically change their eating behaviour and engage more in physical activity even if it might not be as easy to come by. Of course you cannot choose in what kind of situation you are born into, but ones you develop diabetes, there is no way back. Needless to say prevention is crucial here.

The social determinants of diabetes and the challenge of prevention

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5 responses to “Diabetes: the social impact

  1. Pingback: Why we need to stay critical… about everything! | Proteomics and the pathogenic mechanism of diabetes·

  2. I very much agree with what you say about people needing to change their eating habits and supporting habits towards those with diabetes.
    I do wonder though why this problem is specific to “deprived” area, as obesity is is a mostly associated with prosperity and has to do with a whole different kind of “malnutrition”. E.g. in the USA where more than one third of the adult population is obese.

  3. Yes I understand your question. You should look at it more like ‘the poor among the wealthy’. Yes Mexico and the USA are in the top 3 most obese countries, and these countries are indeed not ‘deprived’ they are in fact among the wealthiest countries in the world but like I said it the poorest people in those situations that cannot afford healthy food products as those are more expensive than regular processed foods that increase the risk of obesity.

  4. I also fully agree with what you are saying here. Many people often aren’t aware of these consequences of obesity. All too often they just have a “little problem with their blood sugar”, not being aware of the immensity of this problem, let alone the economic cost of this illness towards society.

  5. the numbers don’t lie: the amount of diabetic adults will rise with 69% between now and 2030 in developing countries and only 20% in developed countries. The total will be brought to 552 million diabetes patients in 2030, coming from 366 million in 2011. This is an astonishing amount but also what is to be expected for the most common endocrine disease in the world.

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