Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
12 Nov 2021
6:07 am

South Africa has highest diabetes rates in Africa

Citizen Reporter

The cost of diabetes-related health expenditure has risen to just over R25,000 per person, totalling an estimated R109 billion.

Fat patient visiting doctor. Woman suffering from overweight, obesity, heart disease, having diabetes risk. Can be used for health problem, lifestyle, medical help concept

New figures released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) show that over 4 million adults in South Africa are affected by the condition.

Over 537 million adults worldwide are now living with diabetes. That’s an increase of 16% (74 million) since the previous IDF estimates in 2019.

Of that, 4.2 million South Africans, or one in nine adults, are diabetic.

The IDF estimates that just under half of the people (45.4%) living with diabetes in South Africa are undiagnosed.

When undetected or inadequately treated, people with condition are at risk of serious and life-threatening complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation.

One in three adults locally are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes

South Africa has the highest prevalence in Africa at 11.3%, and the country registered an estimated 96,000 diabetic deaths this year alone.

Diabetes-related health expenditure has risen to just over R25 000 ($1,700) per person, totalling an estimated R109 billion ($7.2 billion).

One in three (13 million) South Africans have impaired fasting glucose (IFG), which places them at high risk of developing Type 2. This is the highest IFG prevalence in the world.

Diabetes is a serious threat to global health that respects neither socioeconomic status nor national boundaries.

“The increasing prevalence of diabetes in South Africa confirms [the condition] is a significant challenge to the health and wellbeing of individuals and families in the country,” says Professor and Head of the Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Ayesha Motala.

South Africa has highest diabetes rates in Africa.
Photo: iStock


2021 marks 100 years since the discovery of insulin.

“We must do more to provide affordable and uninterrupted access to diabetes care for all people who require it in South Africa, and around the world,” said Motala.

Motala said that Type 2 can often be prevented, while early diagnosis and access to appropriate care for all types of diabetes can avoid or delay complications in people living with the condition.

“Therefore we must do more to prevent Type 2, diagnose all forms of diabetes early and prevent complications.

“Importantly we must ensure that every person with diabetes has uninterrupted access to the quality care they need in their communities,” said Motala.

South Africa has highest diabetes rates in Africa
Photo: iStock

Type 2 diabetes

Globally, 90% of people with the condition have type 2 diabetes.

The increase in the number of people developing Type 2 is driven by a complex interplay of socio-economic, demographic, environmental and genetic factors.

Key contributors include urbanisation, an ageing population, decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing levels of people being overweight and developing obesity.

Key global and regional findings from the IDF Diabetes Atlas 10th Edition include:

  • One in ten adults globally are currently living with diabetes. This number is expected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and to 783 million by 2045.
  • An estimated 240 million people are living with undiagnosed diabetes worldwide – 13 million in Africa.
  • The condition was responsible for an estimated $966 billion in global health expenditure in 2021. This represents a 316% increase over 15 years. Africa accounts for 1% ($13 billion) of the global expenditure.
  • Excluding the mortality risks associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, approximately 6.7 million adults are estimated to have died as a result of diabetes, or its complications, in 2021. That’s more than one in ten (12.2%) of global deaths from all causes.
  • The Africa Region accounts for 6% (416,000) of total diabetes-related deaths. 541 million adults, or 10.6% of adults worldwide, have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), placing them at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Almost one in ten (52 million) people affected by IGT live in the Africa Region.

Compiled by Narissa Subramoney

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