According to figures released this week by Statistics Netherlands, the percentage of people in the Netherlands reporting that they have diabetes has risen substantially since the beginning of this century. Type 2 diabetes, in particular, has become more prevalent, mainly among the over-55s. Obesity plays a large part in this development.
Mainly more type 2 diabetes
In 2013, nearly half the Dutch population reported that they suffered from at least one chronic disorder. One of the disorders with a high disease burden and reduction in quality of life is diabetes mellitus. In 2013, 4.5 percent of the Dutch population reported they had diabetes, the equivalent of around 750 thousand people. Type 2 is five times as common as type 1 diabetes: 3.8 percent of the population said they had type 2, 0.7 percent type 1.
The percentage of people who said they were diabetic has increased in the course of time. In 2001, 2.8 percent of the population said they suffered from the disease. The increase is almost entirely accounted for by the rise in the share of type 2 diabetics.
More diabetics visit their GP
Sources of information on general practitioner care and medication prescriptions also show that more people have diabetes. The number of people visiting their GP in connection with this disease, for example, rose from 2.9 percent in 2002 to 4.6 percent in 2011. The share of Dutch people prescribed diabetes medication rose from 3.8 percent in 2006 to 4.6 percent in 2012.
Seventeen percent of over-75s have diabetes
Some people have a higher risk of diabetes than others. The number of diabetics rises with age, for example: while diabetes hardly occurs in the youngest age groups, in 2010/2013 17.2 percent of over-75s said they had the disease. Type 2 diabetes, in particular, rises strongly from the age of 55.
Diabetics by age, 2010/2013
Obesity increases risk of diabetes
Not only older people are more likely to have diabetes; the disease is also more common among immigrants, lower educated groups, less wealthy people and overweight people. Although there is no causal relationship between, for example, level of wealth and diabetes, it is probable that obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetics, 4 years and older, by weight category, 2010/2013
Diabetes is more common among overweight people: 15.7 percent of the population aged 4 years and older who are obese are diabetic. This is eight times the share of people who are not overweight. However, obesity is also related to other characteristics, such as age, education level, level of wealth and ethnic origin. Older people, for example, are not only more likely to suffer from diabetes, but are also more likely to be overweight. Statistics Netherlands has published an analysis that calculates the risk of becoming diabetic which takes into account all these factors. This shows that the risk for obese people is six times that for people in the normal weight range.
More diabetes as a result of more obesity?
The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has calculated that the increase in the percentage of people with diabetes can partly be explained by demographic developments such as population ageing. A larger part of the increase can be accounted for by lifestyle changes, however, such as the increase in obesity, but also by more active investigations by GPs.