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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 
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spacing1What do we know about diabetes among Indigenous people?

Diabetes is a group of disorders due to high levels of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood [1] and caused by either or both of the following:

Without enough insulin, the body cannot turn glucose into energy, and it stays in the blood. The treatment of diabetes depends on the type of diabetes that a person has - if someone has type 1 diabetes they will need insulin injections; if someone has type 2 diabetes they may be able to manage it by living a healthy lifestyle or taking some medicines. It is possible for a person to have type 2 diabetes without knowing it. Type 1 diabetes is not common in the Indigenous population [3]. Type 2 diabetes is a serious health problem for many Indigenous people, who tend to develop it at earlier ages than other Australians, and often die from it at younger ages. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) develops in some women during pregnancy [4] and is more common among Indigenous women than among non-Indigenous women [5]. Diabetes can lead to life-threatening health complications, some of which may develop within months of diagnosis while others may take years to develop [6]. For many Indigenous people diabetes is not diagnosed until after complications have developed [7].

Diabetes was reported by 9% of Indigenous people in the 2012-2013 AATSIHS [8][9]. After adjusting for age, the level of diabetes and/or high sugar levels for Indigenous people was three times higher than for non-Indigenous people [10]. More Indigenous women reported having diabetes and/or high sugar levels than Indigenous men [11].

According to the 2012-2013 AATSIHS, diabetes was more common for Indigenous people living in remote areas than for those living in non-remote areas [12]. Diabetes affected Indigenous people at a younger age than non-Indigenous people – 5% of Indigenous people aged 25-34 years had diabetes, and up to 39% of those aged over 55 years had the disease (Figure 1) [10]. Overall, diabetes was around three times more common among Indigenous people than among other Australians.

Figure 1. Proportion (%) of people reporting diabetes/high sugar levels as a long-term health condition, by Indigenous status, and age-group, Australia, 2012-2013

Proportions (%) of people reporting diabetes/high sugar levels as a long-term health condition, by Indigenous status, and age-group, Australia, 2012-2013

Source: ABS 2014 [10]

Diabetes was responsible for one-in-twelve deaths (201 deaths) of Indigenous people living in NSW, Qld, SA, WA and the NT in 2012 [13][14]. Diabetes was the second leading cause of death for Indigenous people. The overall death rate was seven times higher for Indigenous people than for non-Indigenous people.

References

  1. Lalor E, Cass A, Chew D, Craig M, Davis W, Grenfell R, Hoy W, McGlynn L, Mathew T, Parker D, Shaw J, Tonkin A, Towler B (2014) Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease: Australian facts - mortality. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  2. Diabetes Australia (2011) What is diabetes?. Retrieved September 2011 from http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/Understanding-Diabetes/What-is-Diabetes/
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010) Australia's health 2010: the twelfth biennial report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014) Australia’s health 2014: the 14th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010) Diabetes in pregnancy: its impact on Australian women and their babies. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011) Prevalence of Type 1 diabetes in Australian children, 2008. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  7. National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (2005) Evidence base to a preventive health assessment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Melbourne: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: updated results, 2012–13. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: updated results, 2012-13 - Australia: table 21.3 [data cube]. Retrieved 6 June 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&472705500621.xls&4727.0.55.006&Data%20Cubes&166861F2585F8D85CA257CEE0010DAE7&0&2012%9613&06.06.2014&Latest
  10. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: updated results, 2012-13 - Australia: table 6.3 [data cube]. Retrieved 6 June 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&472705500606.xls&4727.0.55.006&Data%20Cubes&7F2DBD07A515E7A2CA257CEE0010D7BF&0&2012%9613&06.06.2014&Latest
  11. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: updated results, 2012-13 - Australia: table 5.3 [data cube]. Retrieved 6 June 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&472705500605.xls&4727.0.55.006&Data%20Cubes&A95A701E3429A625CA257CEE0010D780&0&2012%9613&06.06.2014&Latest
  12. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: updated results, 2012-13 - Australia: table 2.3 [data cube]. Retrieved 6 June 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&472705500602.xls&4727.0.55.006&Data%20Cubes&A0A5C6AE5F15C5DECA257CEE0010D6DC&0&2012%9613&06.06.2014&Latest
  13. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Causes of death, Australia, 2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  14. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Causes of death, Australia, 2012: Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians [data cube]. Retrieved 25 March 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&3303_12%20deaths%20of%20aboriginal%20and%20torres%20strait%20islander%20australians.xls&3303.0&Data%20Cubes&0585A7BA09CCB81DCA257CA5000C9072&0&2012&25.03.2014&Latest
 
Last updated: 17 June 2015
 
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