To determine the factors responsible for the dramatic increase in the prevalence of diabetes in Korea. A computerized literature survey was conducted to evaluate the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in Korea, including genome-wide association studies. National Statistics gross national income data was integrated with the reported prevalence of diabetes to evaluate the relationship between diabetes and the economic growth. The strength of the association was evaluated using measures of effect size, such as odds ratio and relative risks. The putative risk factors identified in Korean studies are very similar to the risk factors identified from the other countries, including genetic background. Genome-wide association studies reported relative risks of 1.5 or less, indicating that no single gene is associated with the risk of T2DM. The scientific evidence suggests that the dramatic increase in the incidence and prevalence of T2DM in Korea is related to the economic development of Korea, which has a direct influence on health policy, as well as an individual's health behaviors. We expect to observe the current diabetes incidence rates until the key risk factors are present for long enough in our society, at which point we would expect to start observing a more gradual increase in both the incidence and prevalence of T2DM in Korea.
Keywords: Economy; Epidemiology; Genetics.