Country and global health statistics underestimate the number of excess deaths due to diabetes. The aim of the study was to provide a more accurate estimate of the number of deaths attributable to diabetes for the year 2010. A computerized disease model was used to obtain the estimates. The baseline input data included the population structure, estimates of diabetes prevalence, estimates of underlying mortality and estimates of the relative risk of death for people with diabetes compared to people without diabetes. The total number of excess deaths attributable to diabetes worldwide was estimated to be 3.96 million in the age group 20-79 years, 6.8% of global (all ages) mortality. Diabetes accounted for 6% of deaths in adults in the African Region, to 15.7% in the North American Region. Beyond 49 years of age diabetes constituted a higher proportion of deaths in females than in males in all regions, reaching over 25% in some regions and age groups. Thus, diabetes is a considerable cause of premature mortality, a situation that is likely to worsen, particularly in low and middle income countries as diabetes prevalence increases. Investments in primary and secondary prevention are urgently required to reduce this burden.
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