Age and overweight prime risk factors for diabetes

More than 4 percent of the Dutch population in the age category 20 years or older suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is most common among older seriously overweight people.

Age and weight increase risk of diabetes

An average 4.4 percent of over-20s suffered from diabetes in the period 2004–2006. (Over)weight obviously is an important risk factor, since only 2.2 percent of people without overweight had diabetes against no less than 12.3 percent of people with serious overweight.

The proportion of diabetics also increases sharply with advancing age: 0.6 percent of people in the 20–40 age bracket suffered from diabetes compared to 11.4 percent of over-60s. Older, obese people run the highest risk of diabetes (23 percent).

Diabetes by age and (over)weight, 2004–2006

Diabetes by age and (over)weight, 2004–2006

Men at increased risk

Diabetes is marginally more common among men than women. A higher diabetes incidence is only observed in moderately or seriously overweight middle-aged persons and does not apply at advanced age.

Sharper increase among older people

From the early 1990s, the percentage of diabetics has nearly doubled. The increase was not evenly spread across all age groups. The percentage of 20 to 39-year-old diabetics, for instance, hardly changed. The increase is mainly observed in older, obese people. The percentage of older, obese diabetics has nearly tripled since 1989–1991.

A possible explanation for the sharp increase in diabetics is the recent focus on the relation between diabetes and overweight in health science and the media. As more becomes known about the risk factors, groups at risk are tested for diabetes at an earlier stage.

Proportion of diabetics in various groups

Proportion of diabetics in various groups

Stephanie Stam