Diabetes: The World’s Largest Epidemic Unmasked


This National Diabetes Week, we are unmasking the world’s largest epidemic, Diabetes, to raise awareness about the nature of the disease and the real impact diabetes-related stigmas have on all aspects of life for people living with this disease, including their mental health and wellbeing.

Diabetes is a public health problem that has reached epidemic proportions on a global scale. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 422 million people around the world have diabetes with approximately 1.6 million deaths being attributed to the disease each year (1). Given the fact that both the incidence and prevalence of diabetes have exponentially increased over the past few decades, it should come as no surprise that diabetes has been pronounced the greatest epidemic of the 21st Century (2).

A Closer Look at Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a non-communicable, chronic disease characterised by a disordered metabolism and inapt hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels). This is due to either a deficiency of insulin secretion, or a combination of insulin resistance and inexpedient homeostatic insulin secretion to compensate. Insulin is secreted in the body by beta cells in the pancreas and plays the important role of converting glucose to energy so that that the body can function optimally.

It is important to note the distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is due to pancreatic islet Beta cell destruction, mainly by an autoimmune process whereby the body attacks itself. These patients are prone to ketoacidosis where blood glucose levels rise dangerously and alter the bodies equilibrium. On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance with a defect in compensatory insulin secretion by the liver.

Heads Up on Diabetes

If left untreated, diabetes can cause serious complications for those living with the disease, such as causing cardiovascular disease, neuropathy and retinopathy. In addition to these physical effects, anxiety, mental anguish and distress are also contributing factors of the disease. Given the fact that there is no cure, thorough care routines are essential in managing diabetes. These routines involve blood sugar monitoring (e.g., through finger prick testing), consistent exercise, sustaining a meticulous meal plan, coordinating additional medications, and so on. It’s estimated that people living with diabetes face up to 180 diabetes-related decisions every day (3). That’s more than 65,000 extra decisions a year (3). 

Predominantly, those living with diabetes are most worried about developing further complications, including the loss of their driver licence, the monetary cost of management and the burden of the disease to their quality of life. According to a recent survey of more than 1,300 people conducted by Diabetes Australia, almost half of all the people living with diabetes have experienced mental health challenges in the past year with 37% communicating that they “feel burned out by the relentless nature of their diabetes”.

However, what is even more alarming is the fact that more than one in four people suffering from diabetes said that their mental health had been additionally impacted by the negative attitudes, innate prejudice or stereotypes placed on them by society. The ‘blame and shame’ stigma inexcusably outcasts people living with diabetes and contributes to the deterioration of their self-esteem. Negative cultural labels inevitably lead to feelings of despair and loneliness and can prevent those living with the disease from actively practising good self-management to mask their condition from friends, family, or the general public. 

Inverting the Diabetes Stigma

This National Diabetes Week, Diabetes Australia challenges us all to invert the diabetes stigma by opting against negative social judgement towards those suffering from diabetes. The 2021 theme ‘Heads Up Diabetes’ champions emotional wellbeing by illuminating the psychological toll diabetes can impose on patients.

At The iQ Group Global, we are on a mission to drive a better quality of life for diabetes patients around the globe. In full support of Diabetes Australia, we are using our platform in the life-science and medical community to give Australia a ‘heads up’ on the diabetes stigma in pursuit of a better health future for diabetes. This year we advocate the grit of those suffering from diabetes and hope to unmask the relentless fight they endure to manage their condition and achieve optimal quality of life.


References:

  1. Who.int. 2021. Diabetes. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes#tab=tab_1>.
  2. Zimmet, P., 2017. Diabetes and its drivers: the largest epidemic in human history?. Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology, 3(1).
  3. Headsupdiabetes.com.au. 2021. Heads Up on Diabetes – National Diabetes Week 2021. [online] Available at: <https://headsupdiabetes.com.au/>.

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