Interpreting global trends in type 2 diabetes complications and mortality

Diabetologia. 2022 Jan;65(1):3-13. doi: 10.1007/s00125-021-05585-2. Epub 2021 Nov 27.


International trends in traditional diabetes complications (cardiovascular, renal, peripheral vascular, ophthalmic, hepatic or neurological diseases) and mortality rates are poorly characterised. An earlier review of studies published up to 2015 demonstrated that most data come from a dozen high-income countries (HICs) in North America, Europe or the Asia-Pacific region and that, in these countries at least, rates of acute glycaemic fluctuations needing medical attention and amputations, myocardial infarction and mortality were all declining over the period. Here, we provide an updated review of published literature on trends in type 2 diabetes complications and mortality in adults since 2015. We also discuss issues related to data collection, analysis and reporting that have influenced global trends in type 2 diabetes and its complications. We found that most data on trends in type 2 diabetes, its complications and mortality come from a small number of HICs with comprehensive surveillance systems, though at least some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) from Africa and Latin America are represented in this review. The published data suggest that HICs have experienced declines in cardiovascular complication rates and all-cause mortality in people with diabetes. In parallel, cardiovascular complications and mortality rates in people with diabetes have increased over time in LMICs. However, caution is warranted in interpreting trends from LMICs due to extremely sparse data or data that are not comparable across countries. We noted that approaches to case ascertainment and definitions of complications and mortality (numerators) and type 2 diabetes (the denominator) vary widely and influence the interpretation of international data. We offer four key recommendations to more rigorously document trends in rates of type 2 diabetes complications and mortality, over time and worldwide: (1) increasing investments in data collection systems; (2) standardising case definitions and approaches to ascertainment; (3) strengthening analytical capacity; and (4) developing and implementing structured guidelines for reporting of data.

Keywords: Data quality; Diabetes complications; High-income countries; Low- and middle-income countries; Mortality; Review; Trends.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa
  • Blood Glucose
  • Diabetes Complications* / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Mortality


  • Blood Glucose