Researchers are projecting that 1.3 billion people will have diabetes by 2050 worldwide, The Washington Post reports, which would be more than double the current number — a looming epidemic that would mean increased societal and health costs as the chronic condition leads to heart issues, kidney failure, and a whole host of other problems.
This increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes is mostly attributable to an increase in obesity, the researchers wrote in a study in The Lancet. They estimate that there are currently around 529 million people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, which accounts for around 6.1 percent of the world population.
As that figure spikes, it'll highlight a grim irony: even as medicine advances and world economies grow, our actual health and life expectancy is suffering — often from conditions linked to our own relative affluence, creating strange and complex new challenges for public health.
Concretely, this projected global rise in diabetes rates will add a huge new burden to many health care systems. In another study published in the journal Diabetes Care, the economic cost of diabetes was projected at $1.3 trillion across the globe in 2015, and in a worst case scenario could rise to as much as $2.5 trillion by 2030.
Diabetes, which happens when the body can't make enough insulin or can't use insulin effectively to regulate blood glucose, can cause a cascade of problems that can damage major bodily systems such as the kidneys, heart and nerves.
In 2021, WHO started several new initiatives for diabetes prevention along with "treatment targets" to reach by 2030, but it remains to be seen whether these will have any impact as diabetes cuts a blazing swath through the global population.
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