Nov. 27, 2009 -- If nothing is done, the number of Americans with diabetes will nearly double in the next 25 years and
spending on the disease will nearly triple, a new study shows.
An aging population combined with a dramatic rise in obesity has created a perfect storm for diabetes in the
U.S., researchers say.
"A perfect storm is a good way to look at it," study researcher Elbert S.
Huang, MD of the University of Chicago tells WebMD. "If things stay the way
they are right now we will have massive increases in diabetes incidence in this
country over the next two decades."
By 2034, as many as 44 million Americans will have diabetes, up from 23
million today, according to the new projections, published in the November
issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care.
The cost of caring for diabetes patients is projected to rise from
$113 billion to $336 annually, and that is before adjusting for inflation.
These costs will outpace the increase in cases because more diabetes
patients will be older and sicker and will require more expensive medical care,
Age is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and the transition of baby boomers
from middle to old age will drive much of the increase, the study shows.
As a result, by 2034, half of all direct spending in diabetes care is
projected to occur in the Medicare population.
About 8 million Americans covered by Medicare now have diabetes and it cost
$45 billion to treat them in 2009.
The number of diabetes patients whose treatment is paid for by Medicare is
projected to nearly double to 14.6 million in the next 25 years, and the cost
of caring for them is expected to quadruple.
By 2034, annual Medicare spending on diabetes care is projected to rise to
Although little can be done about the aging of the population, much can be
done about the other major risk factor for type 2 diabetes -- obesity.
About 65% of Americans are overweight, and about one-third are obese, the
The obesity rate among adults in the U.S. doubled between 1980 and 2004, but
it appears to have leveled off since then.
The new diabetes model developed by the Huang and colleagues predicts a
slight decline in obesity rates in the U.S. over the next two decades.
Target Obesity, Change the Future
All agree that a bigger decline in obesity, achieved though successful
public health initiatives, could make a huge difference.
The future projected in the newly published study does not have to become
reality, experts say.
"The cost of doing nothing is clearly going to be quite high," study
co-researcher Michael O'Grady, PhD, said in a news conference. "To do nothing
right now is going to cost billions and billions of dollars."
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