Type 2 Diabetes Facts and Figures

What is diabetes?

  • Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease where the body does not produce enough insulin or is unable to properly use insulin. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, helps the body reduce sugars and starches to glucose, the basic fuel for cells. Insulin transports sugar from the blood into cells.
  • Type 2 diabetes, which is also called diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes (although it should be noted that many more children and youth are now developing the disease), is the most common form of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases are type 2. The other types of diabetes are type 1 (no insulin secretion; formerly known as juvenile diabetes) and gestational (occurring during pregnancy and often transient).
  • Most people with type 2 diabetes have a combination of insulin resistance and insulin secretion deficiency. Insulin resistance is a condition where the body produces insulin, but is unable to use it properly to create energy from glucose. Insulin secretion deficiency is a condition where the pancreas produces insufficient insulin. Since diabetes is a progressive disease, the body’s ability to produce insulin may diminish over time.
  • When the body cannot convert glucose into energy, blood glucose levels rise and diabetic complications can result.
  • A simple test known as HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c) can measure a person’s average glucose levels over the past two to three months; ideally levels should be below 7.0. Doctors recommend taking an HbA1c test twice a year.

Who suffers from diabetes?

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, about 25.8 million Americans – or 8.3% percent of the population – have diabetes, but only 18.8 million people are diagnosed.
  • An estimated 7.0 million Americans have diabetes but do not know it. Another 79 million Americans, age 20 or older, have what is called pre-diabetes, and are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Each year, roughly 1.9 million Americans age 20 and older are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more common among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Age-adjusted national survey data for 2007-2009 compiled by the American Diabetes Association shows that 12.6% of African Americans, 11.8% of Hispanics and 8.4% of Asian Americans have diabetes (compared to 7.1% of non-Hispanic Whites). Many of these groups also face increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes increases as people age. About 10.0 million people over the age of 65, or over one in four in this age group (26.9%), have diabetes.

What are the long-term health risks of diabetes?

  • Long-term health risks associated with type 2 diabetes include damage to small blood vessels, particularly those in the eyes, kidneys and extremities; damage to nerves in the hands and feet; high blood pressure; heart disease and stroke due to damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain; and poor healing. Due to these complications, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower limb amputation, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States.
  • Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose though healthy eating, exercise, losing excess weight, and taking oral medication. Medications for each individual with diabetes will often change throughout the course of the disease, and some people with type 2 diabetes may need insulin to control their blood glucose.
  • For every one-point drop in HbA1c (from 8.0 to 7.0, for example), a patient’s risk of developing microvascular complications of diabetes, including damage to the eyes, kidneys or nervous system, declines by 40%.
  • The CDC states that “self-management education or training is a key step in improving health outcomes and quality of life” and suggests people with type 2 diabetes should focus on “self-care behaviors such as healthy eating, being active and monitoring blood sugar.” A “collaborative process in which diabetes educators help people with or at risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and problem-solving and coping skills needed” can help diabetes patients “successfully self-manage the disease and its related conditions”.

What is the social and economic burden of diabetes?

  • According to the ADA, two of every three people with type 2 diabetes will die from a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease and stroke were noted on 68% and 16% respectively, of diabetes-related death certificates for people over the age of 65.
  • While diabetes was the seventh-leading reported cause of death in the U.S. in 2010, according to the CDC, studies suggested mortality is underreported with only 35% to 40% of those with diagnosed diabetes having the disease listed anywhere on their death certificate, and only 10% to 15% having it listed as the cause of death. Overall, it is estimated that people with diabetes face twice the risk of dying as people of a similar age who do not have diabetes.
  • According to the CDC, the United States spent $174 billion to treat diagnosed cases of diabetes in 2007, including $58 billion in indirect costs such as disability, work loss, and premature death.


American Diabetes Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Diabetes Basics
Diabetes Statistics
CDC National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011