clock menu more-arrow no yes

The alarming surge in diabetes, in one world map

Infographic: The Unrelenting Global March Of Diabetes | Statista

(WHO data via Statista)

Around the world, the number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980, and most of the burden of the disease is concentrated in poorer countries.

As this chart from Statista shows, many of the biggest increases in diabetes prevalence have happened in the developing regions of the world, such as the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. In 2014, 422 million adults were living with diabetes, compared with 108 million in 1980, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

For years, researchers and health agencies have warned that urbanization and the influx of cheap, sugary, and processed foods into low- and middle-income countries are linked to the surge in noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes and obesity.

Countries like Mexico, France, and the UK have been fighting back with taxes on sugary drinks, while Brazil and cities across the US have introduced more parks and bike and running routes to encourage more physical activity. The idea is that policy changes can nudge people away from behaviors that will increase their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes that are related to lifestyle choices.

"If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: To eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director general, said in a statement. "Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes."

Whether they're poor or rich, countries are also going to have to find ways to counter the ​food marketing messages​ urging people to consume more if they want to turn the trend around.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.