Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body cannot properly process glucose (a type of sugar) . Normally the body can convert glucose into energy with the help of a hormone called insulin. If someone has diabetes, their body’s production of insulin is impaired. 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.
Diabetes is a major health problem for Indigenous people, but it is hard to know just how many Indigenous people have the disease. Diabetes was reported by 8% of Indigenous people in the 2012-2013 AATSIHS . After adjusting for age, the level of diabetes and/or high sugar levels for Indigenous people was three times higher than that for non-Indigenous people. More Indigenous women reported having diabetes and/or high sugar levels than Indigenous men.
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 . Diabetes affected Indigenous people at a younger age than non-Indigenous people – 5% of Indigenous people aged between 25 years and 34 years had diabetes, and up to 39% of those aged over 55 years had the disease (Figure 1). Overall, diabetes is around four times more common among Indigenous people than among other Australians.
Figure 1. 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 2013 
Diabetes was responsible for one-in-twelve deaths (201 deaths) of Indigenous people living in NSW, Qld, SA, WA and the NT in 2012 . Diabetes was the second leading cause of death for Indigenous people. The overall death rate was seven times higher for Indigenous people than that for non-Indigenous people.