‘Diabetes reduces employment chances, especially of men’

Study on economic burden of type II diabetes says two-thirds of all new cases of diabetes reported in low- and middle-income countries, such as China, India, Mexico and Egypt

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Wednesday 18 March 2015


Diabetes reduces people's employment chances and wages around the world, according to a new study by University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.
Diabetes affects 382 million people worldwide. This number will grow to 592 million by 2035, say researchers who studied the economic impact of type II diabetes worldwide. The study was supported by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a public health research centre in the UK.

The researchers found that type II diabetes not only had a large cost burden in high-income countries, but also in low- and middle-income countries where people with diabetes and their families face high costs for treatment. The costs associated with diabetes increase over time with disease severity.

While it is widely known that diabetes poses a huge health challenge, awareness of its impacts on the global economy and labour markets has never before been studied in such detail.

The research team looked at data from 109 global studies of the economic impact of diabetes. Worldwide, diabetes hits the poor hardest, with a higher cost burden for people in low- and middle-income countries. Two-thirds of all new cases of diabetes are now in low- and middle-income countries such as China, India, Mexico, and Egypt. Men with diabetes have worse employment opportunities globally. The impact on women appears to be less adverse, except in the US where their employment chances decreased by almost half.

Lead researcher Till Seuring from UEA's Norwich Medical School says the rising prevalence of diabetes in low- and middle-income countries has been fuelled by rapid urbanisation, changing eating habits, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

He says that the cost of disease includes consultations with doctor and hospital visits, medication, lab costs for tests, and equipment costs, as well as indirect costs such as income losses due to early retirement, and lost work hours due to illness.

Poor hit the hardest

As per the research, the characteristics of the economic burden vary from country to country depending on the health care system in place. In high-income countries, the burden often affects government or public health insurance budgets while in poorer countries a large part of the burden falls on the person with diabetes and their family due to very limited health insurance coverage.

"We would hope that the findings further increase the policy attention being paid to diabetes prevention and management in rich countries and it should, in particular, make health and economic policymakers in developing countries aware of the economic damage that diabetes can do," say researchers.

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