Towards a subsiding diabetes epidemic: trends from a large population-based study in Israel

Popul Health Metr. 2014 Oct 30;12(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s12963-014-0032-y. eCollection 2014.


Background: With increasing diabetes prevalence worldwide, an impending diabetes "pandemic" has been reported. However, definitions of incident cases and the population at risk remain varied and ambiguous. This study analyzed trends in mortality and screening that contribute to diabetes prevalence and incidence, distinguishing between new incident cases and newly detected cases.

Methods: In an integrated provider-and-payer-system covering 53% of Israel's population, a composite diabetes case-finding algorithm was built using diagnoses, lab tests, and antidiabetic medication purchases from the organization's electronic medical record database. Data were extracted on adult members aged 26+ each year from January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2012. Rates of diabetes prevalence, incidence, screening, and mortality were reported, with incidence rates evaluated among the total, "previously-screened," and "previously-unscreened" at-risk populations.

Results: There were 343,554 diabetes cases in 2012 (14.4%) out of 2,379,712 members aged 26+. A consistent but decelerating upward trend in diabetes prevalence was observed from 2004-2012. Annual mortality rates among diabetics decreased from 13.8/1000 to 10.7/1000 (p = 0.0002). Total population incidence rates declined from 13.3/1000 in 2006 to 10.8/1000 in 2012 (p < 0.0001), with similar incidence trends (13.2/1000 to 10.2/1000; p = 0.0007) among previously-screened at-risk members, and a rise in testing rates from 53.0% to 66.7% (p = 0.0004). The previously-unscreened group decreased 28.6%, and the incidence rates within this group remained stable.

Conclusions: The increase in diabetes prevalence is decelerating despite declining mortality and increasing testing rates. A decline in previously-screened incident cases and a shrinking pool of previously-unscreened members suggests that diabetes trends in Israel are moving toward equilibrium, rather than a growing epidemic.

Keywords: Diabetes epidemiology; Diabetes incidence; Diabetes mortality; Diabetes prevalence; Diabetes screening rates; Population at risk.