Inactivity blamed for huge rise in diabetes

Another 275 people are diagnosed with diabetes every day in Australia, mostly caused by lack of physical activity, according to the AusDiab 2012 study.

AusDiab Co-Chief Investigator Professor Jonathan Shaw said the activity level was found to be 150 minutes of exercise a week.

He said that from the five year follow-up survey in 2004-2005, the other key findings were:

  • The average increase in waist circumference in Australians over five years was 2.1cm.
  • Four per cent of those in the overweight category in the 1999-2000 survey moved up into the obese category in the 2004-5 survey.
  • Those aged under 65 years showed an average weight increase of 1.8kg over five years.
  • Every year, 3 per cent of adults developed high blood pressure.
  • Every year, almost one per cent of adults developed kidney disease, with the risk being higher in females and older people.
  • The percentage of people developing diabetes over the five years between the studies was twice as high for those who did no physical activity compared to those who did more than 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
  • People with pre-diabetes (elevated blood sugar levels but not as high as for diabetes) were 15 times more likely to develop diabetes than were those with normal blood glucose levels.
  • Obese people were four times more likely to develop diabetes than were those with normal weight.

Other findings were:

  • Every year, 0.7 per cent of adults developed diabetes, 3 per cent developed high blood pressure, 0.4-0.7 per cent developed signs of kidney damage.
  • Living in the most socially-disadvantaged areas of Australia doubled the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Over 12 years, the average gain in waist circumference was 5.3 cm, and was greater in women than in men, and in younger people than in older people.
  • People with previously known diabetes have a similar risk of mortality to smokers.
  • Self-report physical activity time was approximately 50 per cent greater than objectively measured physical activity time, whilst self-report sitting time was approximately half that measured by objective means.
  • Among the over 60s, cognitive impairment was more common among those with diabetes or with obesity.
  • Among the over 60s, having diabetes, obesity or kidney disease increased the risks of having physical disability.
  • Diabetes, obesity and kidney disease each increased the risks of having depression.
  • People with diabetes, obesity or kidney disease were more likely to be admitted to hospital than people without these conditions.



From the baseline 1999/2000 AusDiab study the researchers found that…

  • In 1999-2000, 7.5 per cent of the Australian population aged 25 years and older had diabetes, 8 per cent of males and 7.0 per cent of females. In people 75 years and over 23.6 per cent had diabetes.
  • For every known case of diabetes, there was one undiagnosed case.
  • Almost 30 per cent of adult Australians had elevated blood pressure or were on treatment for this condition.
  • One in six Australians did not participate in physical activity, while only half of all Australians were participating in sufficient physical activity to maintain good health (defined as 150 minutes per week).
  • At the turn of the century, there were almost one million Australians with diabetes.
  • Almost 60 per cent of Australians were classified as either overweight or obese, 2.5 times more than in 1980.
  • The number of people with diabetes has trebled since a broadly-based blood survey was undertaken in 1981.
  • In comparison to people with normal glucose tolerance, those with diabetes were more likely to have hypertension (69.3 per cent vs. 21.1 per cent), to be obese (44.4 per cent vs. 15.9 per cent), to have elevated triglycerides (42.9 per cent vs. 16.0 per cent), and to have a depressed HDL cholesterol (23.1 per cent vs. 10.6 per cent).
  • Almost one in four Australians 25 years and over has either diabetes or elevated blood sugar that is not quite in the range of diabetes (called “pre-diabetes”).  Pre-diabetes is associated with substantially increased immediate risk of heart disease as well as increased risk of diabetes in the future.
  • Increased television viewing was shown to be strongly related to both obesity and the metabolic syndrome.
  • Approximately 16 per cent of the population had some form of kidney damage present and were therefore at risk of renal disease, which consumes 5.7 per cent of the health care budget.

The results were released this month by Professor Shaw.


Click here to watch Professor Shaw talk about the study, the latest findings and the implications for individuals, communities and policy makers.


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