A study has found that four out of five people with diabetes are living in developing countries. It also found that the access to healthcare support varied widely in these regions and one in 10 diagnosed cases remain untreated.
This is the finding of a new analysis led by Dr. Longjian Liu of Drexel University's School of Public Health.
The study also found that the rates of diabetes vary widely across developing countries worldwide.
"Diabetes is now one of the most common non-communicable diseases globally. It is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in most high-income countries and there is substantial evidence that it is epidemic in many low- and middle-income countries," Liu said.
The number of people with diabetes is expected to increase substantially in coming decades.
Many past studies have measured rates of diabetes in developing countries in isolation using different methods, leaving researchers unable to make direct comparisons between countries.
Liu's team analyzed data from the World Health Organization's World Health Survey, one of the first and largest global surveys using a standard method to measure the rates of chronic conditions in multiple countries worldwide.
Liu's team included a total of more than 215,000 participants from 49 countries in their analysis. The countries represent a variety of regions, including Africa, the Americas, Europe, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.
The prevalence of diabetes varied widely, from a low of 0.27 percent in Mali, to 15.54 percent in Mauritius. Researchers noted that age is a common factor in diabetes; the low rate observed in Mali may reflect that country's low life expectancy due to infectious diseases.
The study results showed that so-called "adverse body weight"-being underweight, overweight or obese-was associated with increased risk of diabetes. People with diabetes who were underweight were the most likely to go untreated.
Liu and colleagues noted that it is important to identify and address the lack of treatment because diabetes is an independent risk factor for additional health problems and complications, including heart and kidney diseases.
Such complications "are resulting in increasing disability, reduced life expectancy and enormous health costs for virtually every society," Liu said.
The study is available online and will appear in a future issue of the journal Diabetic Medicine.