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Glob Health Action. 2013 Jan 24;6:19244. doi: 10.3402/gha.v6i0.19244.

The non-fatal disease burden caused by type 2 diabetes in South Africa, 2009.

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MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.



Increasing urbanisation and rising unhealthy lifestyle risk factors are contributing to a growing diabetes epidemic in South Africa. In 2000, a study estimated diabetes prevalence to be 5.5% in those aged over 30. Accurate, up-to-date information on the epidemiology and burden of disease due to diabetes and its sequelae is essential in the planning of health services for diabetes management.


To calculate the non-fatal burden of disease in Years Lost due to Disability (YLD) due to diabetes and selected sequelae in South Africa in 2009. YLD measures the equivalent loss of life due to ill-health.


A series of systematic literature reviews identified data on the epidemiology of diabetes and its sequelae in South Africa. The data identified were then applied to Global Burden of Disease (GBD) methodology to calculate the burden attributable to diabetes.


Prevalence of type 2 diabetes in South Africa in 2009 is estimated at 9.0% in people aged 30 and older, representing approximately 2 million cases of diabetes. We modelled 8,000 new cases of blindness and 2,000 new amputations annually caused by diabetes. There are 78,900 YLD attributed to diabetes, with 64% coming from diabetes alone, 24% from retinopathy, 6% from amputations, 9% from attributable stroke disability, and 7% from attributable ischemic heart disease disability.


We estimate that the prevalence of diabetes is increasing in South Africa. Significant disability associated with diabetes is demonstrated. Some of the attributed burden can be prevented through early detection and treatment.


South Africa; burden of disease; developing country; diabetes; epidemiology

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