Starling lifetime cost of type 2 diabetes further highlights need for prevention

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Lifetime cost of type 2 diabetes estimated with new model.

Researchers have estimated the cost of type 2 diabetes throughout one’s lifetime is more than $85,000. According to the new report, the earlier diabetes is diagnoses, the higher the costs. The finding is startling and highlights the importance of preventing the disease.

Xiaohui Zhuo, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta who led the study said in a press release, “This has become increasingly important given the rapid increase of the number of the incident cases in the U.S. and worldwide.”

The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For this study, researchers focused on the cost of diabetes and its complications per individual over a lifetime using a simulation model. Past studies have estimated diabetes healthcare costs per year.

The researchers wanted to see how much money could be saved by delaying the onset of diabetes or preventing it altogether. They also sought to get an idea of the long-term financial impact of new type 2 diabetes cases.


The findings showed:

  • The cost of diabetes and complications is somewhat higher for women, compared to men.
  • The cost of diabetes over a lifetime for men between ages 25 and 44 was calculated $124,700; for women, the resulting cost was $130,800.
  • Complications of diabetes accounts for more than half of the costs – 53 percent from complications of the blood vessels, with 57 percent of that from blood vessel disease.
  • The direct costs of type 2 diabetes stem from doctor visits, medications, testing supplies and complications that include eye and kidney disease, stroke, amputation, heart disease and neuropathy

Preventing diabetes type 2

  • Lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes is possible, even if you have a family history of the disease.
  • Keeping regular checkups with your healthcare provider is important to know if your blood sugar is already higher than normal, or in other words if you have 'prediabetes’.
  • Early intervention can reverse the condition by losing 7 percent of your body weight and exercising 5 days a week for 30-minutes, even with a brisk walking program.
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, successful lifestyle intervention can reduce your chances of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.
  • Exercise and weight loss can return your blood glucose levels to normal. Just losing 10 to 15 pounds if your weight is above normal can help tremendously even if you can’t get to ‘normal’ body mass index.
  • Risks for type 2 diabetes include aging, family history, race and gender, but none of the aforementioned mean you are destined for the disease. Studies have shown Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are at higher risk for diabetes, but the reason is primarily because of higher rates of obesity.
  • Though aging is a risk factor for diabetes, eating healthy, remaining active and managing weight are all ways to stave off the deadly disease. If anyone in your family has diabetes, speak with your doctor about how you can control your individual risk factors.

The study results showed the lifetime cost of type 2 diabetes is higher the earlier a person is diagnosed.

If you are interested in a fresh approach to diabetes, you may be interested in watching what Dr. Neal Barnhard says about type 2 diabetes that goes beyond current research in a TED talk from 2012

Barnhard who is he founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recommends a low-fat vegan diet that he says can control blood sugars and potentially reverse diabetes for those already diagnosed.

Robert E. Ratner, M.D., chief scientific and medical officer at the American Diabetes Association said in a press release, "A better way of doing it is to note that in 2012, in the U.S., we actually had $176 billion in direct medical costs treating people with diabetes.” The cost of type 2 diabetes escalated 40 percent in five years, Ratner added. He explains that complications associated with diabetes have declined because of better blood sugar control. However, new cases diagnosed each year have offset gains made in diabetes treatment.

Zhuo X, Zhang P, Hoerger TJ. (2013). Lifetime direct medical costs of treating type 2 diabetes and diabetic complications.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


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