Liu is an associate professor in the School of Public Health, with research focuses on nutrition and diet, Asian health, early detection of cancer, longitudinal data analysis and more.
Rates of diabetes vary widely across developing countries worldwide, says researcher Longjian Liu of the School of Public Health, but worldwide, four in five people with diabetes now live in developing countries. Liu’s study also found that access to healthcare support for diabetes varied widely in developing countries, and that one in 10 diagnosed cases remain untreated.
“[Diabetes] is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in most high-income countries, and there is substantial evidence that it is an epidemic in many low- and middle-income countries,” Liu says.
“[Diabetes] is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in most high-income countries, and there is substantial evidence that it is an epidemic in many low- and middle-income countries.”
-Longjian Liu, researcher at the School of Public Health
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 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 subjects from 49 countries in their analysis. The countries represent a variety of regions, including Africa, the Americas, Europe, Southeast 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.
4 IN 5 People with diabetes live in developing countries
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 says.