OECD Observer
Education and diabetes

Did you know that there is a correlation between diabetes and education levels? People with the lowest level of education are more than twice as likely to report having diabetes than those with the highest level across EU countries, a close look at Eurostat data shows (see chart).

In Greece, the discrepancy is particularly high, with around 15% of low-educated people reporting having diabetes, compared to 4% among educated people. This may partly be due to the fact that a higher proportion of low-educated people are in older population groups and the risk of diabetes increases with age, but people with lower levels of education often have poorer nutrition and are more likely to be obese, which are important risk factors for diabetes.

An estimated 422 million adults had diabetes in 2014 worldwide, according to WHO estimates. In fact, diabetes prevalence around the globe has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7% to 8.5% in the adult population. In the EU, around 7% of adults across EU countries in 2014 reported to have diabetes, ranging from less than 5% in Denmark, Latvia and Sweden to over 9% in Greece, Portugal and France.

The economic cost is substantial. Health expenditure in EU member states allocated to prevent and treat diabetes and its complications was estimated to be in the order of €100 billion (US$106.3 billion) in 2013. Over a quarter is spent on controlling elevated blood glucose, another quarter on treating long-term complication of diabetes, and the remainder on additional general medical care. People with diabetes also have a lower probability to be employed and, when they are employed, have more days of sick leave and generally earn less.

©OECD Observer No 309 Q1 2017