Diabetes in NZ – new scary data

By John Pickering 01/03/2013 4


If this doesn’t scare you, you are an Ostrich.  Otago University researcher Dr Kirsten Coppell has released new data on the prevalence of diabetes in New Zealand.  See here for the press release.

Basic data:

  • 7% of New Zealanders over the age of 15 have diabetes
  • 18.6% have pre-diabetes which typically leads to Type II diabetes (therefore the prevalence is likely to go higher than 7%).
  • The pre-diabetes prevalence increases with age – it was 45% in 55-64 year age group.

For those interested in reading the research, it can be found in the NZ Medical Journal.  NZMJ 1 March 2013, Vol 126 No 1370; ISSN 1175 8716  URL: http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/126-1370/5555/  Dr Coppell kindly sent me a copy (*I’ve made a few more observations about the details of the study for those who are interested below).

In the meantime, this is rightly hitting the headlines.  We should be afraid, very afraid.  Our politicians must stop arguing over that which is petty (like selling less than half of a small fraction of our assets) and get focussed on what matters.  Next year is election year – we should demand a comprehensive diabetes policy from each political party.  Below is a letter I wrote to the Christchurch Press prior to the last election – not much has changed.  As for you – you can stop attacking the sugar – you don’t need it and it may kill you.  Beware of “fat free” food which substitutes sugar instead.  Get some advice – see your doctor.  Don’t become a statistic in the next survey.

As for the link with my work (Kidney Attack a.k.a. Acute Kidney Injury), the little diagram explains.Diabetes AKI

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*  The study was a representative sample of New Zealanders.  The study size was large (for an NZ study) – 4,721.

From the results

Overall the prevalence of diabetes was 7.0% (95% CI: 6.0, 8.0). Diabetes was more common among men (8.3%; 95% CI: 6.4, 10.1) compared with women (5.8%; 95% CI: 4.7, 7.0). The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was 6.0% (95% CI: 4.5, 7.5) among men and 4.0% (95% CI: 3.1, 4.8) among women, and the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes was 2.1% (95% CI: 1.2, 3.0) among men and 1.5% (95% CI: 1.0, 2.0) among women.

Scary for me is the percentage of undiagnosed diabetes.  This represents tens of thousands of New Zealanders!

Tables in the paper show how the prevalence increases with age and body mass index and that there are marked differences according to ethnicity.  One third of Pacific people over the age of 45 had diabetes, yet about 40% of this was undiagnosed diabetes!

By the way – 95% CI with two numbers following means a that the 95% confidence interval for the prevalence is between the two numbers.  What this means is that there is a 95% chance that confidence interval contains the true prevalence (which can only be known if everyone is measured).  Eg There is a 95% chance that the 6% to 8% confidence interval contains the true prevalence of diabetes (note – 7% should be thought of as an estimate).

Tagged: Acute Kidney Injury, AKI, Chronic Kidney Disease, Diabetes, End stage renal failure, Kidney Attack


4 Responses to “Diabetes in NZ – new scary data”

  • “Scary for me is the percentage of undiagnosed diabetes. This represents tens of thousands of New Zealanders!”

    Me too! I was surprised how little attention this aspect has received in the media.

  • Yes John, the media was plentiful but pathetic. I am not sure anything passed through the brain from reading the press release to writin the articles. This has billions of dollars of economic consequence, let alone the consequences for individuals and their whanau

  • Sadly, diabetes (type 2) is related to the diet and we can choose what we eat. We (humans) are in control of this disease. We either spend money eating the right foods, thus avoiding diabetes or money on treating diabetes and its associated outcomes ie blindness, kidney disease, amputations.

    Regardless of our nutrition knowledge everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are good and sugar and fat are bad. The supermarkets have a huge array of processed foods which can turn shopping into a nightmare when you are trying to make the correct food choices for your family. So keep it simple fruit, vegetables, beans, meat, fish, whole grains and cereals, and low fat dairy.

  • The media has my colleague Dr Helen Lunt (Dept Medicine, Uni Otago Christchurch) speaking of a cost of $1bn annually by 2021 (http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/diabetes-epidemic-could-cost-1-billion-experts-say-5358834). Good to see some traction. I think the estimate, though, is an underestimate.
    Helen made an interesting point to me. There is a “lag-time” of a couple of decades with pre-diabetes leading to diabetes and therefore to the cost to society. Out (collective) failure to address this now will cost our children in the future.