Lifetime Risk of Developing Diabetes Rises to 40%

Michael R. Page, PharmD, RPh
Published Online: Saturday, August 16, 2014
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A patient’s lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes currently stands at 40%, with an even higher risk for some ethnic groups.

According to investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 40% of the population aged 20 years or older is expected to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) within a lifetime. Comparing that result with data collected from 1985 through 1989, the researchers noted a 13–percentage point increase in that statistic for women and a 20–percentage point increase for men.1
Currently, Hispanic patients and women of African descent are at the highest risk of developing T2DM. Among these ethnic groups, more than half of those aged 20 years or older are expected to develop T2DM over the course of their lives.1
The study, published August 13, 2014, in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, also showed positive trends in diabetes care. For instance, the number of life years lost in a typical patient with diabetes receiving a diagnosis at the age of 40 declined from an expected 7.7 years lost for the period between 1990 and 1999 to 5.8 years lost for the period between 2000 and 2011 in light of improved treatments.1
Previously, Edward W. Gregg, PhD, and his colleagues had modeled the possible effect of prevention policies on reducing the future burden of diabetes through the year 2030. Even with implementation of the most effective possible strategy of T2DM prevention, however, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to rise from the 2010 estimate of 12.9% to an expected 21.3% in 2030. This increase in the proportion of the population with T2DM equates to a 65% growth for the disease over a 20-year period.2
The increasing burden of T2DM is expected to pose an enormous burden to the health care system. Health economists expect that the year 2030 will be the peak year of Medicare reimbursement. Therefore, new strategies and enhanced delivery of diabetes management and high-quality care will need to be developed on a large scale to curb the growth in the disease over the coming years.3


  1. Gregg EW, Zhuo X, Cheng YJ, et al. Trends in lifetime risk and years of life lost due to diabetes in the USA, 1985—2011: a modelling study [published online August 13, 2014]. Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2014.

  2. Li R, Barker LE, Shrestha S, et al. Changes over time in high out-of-pocket health care burden in U.S. adults with diabetes, 2001-2011. Diabetes Care. 2014;37(6):1629-2011.

  3. Pearson M. Gerogogy in patient education--revisited. Okla Nurse. 2011;56(2):12-17.

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