Diabetes mellitus has been on the rise in Singapore, while Singaporeans are becoming more affluent, our lifestyles are more sedentary and our population is ageing rapidly. The prevalence of diabetes mellitus rose from 2% in 1975 to 4.7% in 1984, 8.6% in 1992 and 9.0% of adults 18-69 years old in 1998. Malay and Indian women and Indian men were at higher risk, with 14.3, 14.9 and 16.7% prevalence rates, respectively. A further 15% of the adult population have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). Diabetes was a factor in 39.7% of strokes and in 9.3% of all deaths in Singapore, and is the sixth most common cause of death. In the Diabcare Singapore 1998 Study, 91% of participants were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, with mean BMI of 25.1+/-4.4 kg/m(2). The incidence of Type 1 diabetes in childhood is 2.46 per 100000 children 0-12 years of age, while Type 2 diabetes in childhood is an emerging problem. The prevalence of obesity (BMI >30 kg/m(2)) among persons aged 18-69 years rose to 6% in 1998, up from 5.1% in 1992. The prevalence of obesity was highest among the Malays (16.2%) followed by the Indians (12.2%) and the Chinese (3.8%). About 12% of schoolchildren are obese. Increased efforts must be made to change lifestyle and eating patterns in our society, reduce childhood obesity and encourage adults to make lifelong sports and exercise part of the Singaporean way of life. Singapore has one of the world's fastest ageing populations, and even now, 32.4% of Singaporeans 60-69 years of age have diabetes. We should consider screening for diabetes in obese schoolchildren and seek to improve quality of care for people with diabetes, including enlisting the aid of community organisations to improve access to diabetes education, monitoring, support and complications screening services.