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Diabetes: key points

  • Diabetes is an important cause of disability and increases the risk of coronary heart disease and other health problems. It is more common in deprived areas. The most recent Scottish Diabetes Survey (2016) estimates that there were 291,981 people with a diagnosis of diabetes in Scotland at the end of 2016, a crude prevalence of 5.4% (compared to 5.1% in 2013). There were 17,916 new cases diagnosed in 2016.
  • In 2016 there were 6,214 deaths where diabetes was mentioned among the causes, 54.1% were of men.
  • Type 1 diabetes often starts at a young age and is due to a lack of insulin. It accounts for 10-15% of all cases of diabetes (10.7% in Scotland in 2015). Type 2 diabetes starts with resistance to the action of insulin and is associated with older age, overweight and obesity.
  • The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing rapidly in Scotland, as in many other countries. The largest part of the increase in type 2 diabetes is likely to be due to poor diet (specifically excess energy intake), low levels of physical activity and the resulting increase in levels of obesity.
  • Type 2 diabetes is much more common at older ages and the increase in the number of older people in Scotland also contributes to the increase in numbers of those with diabetes.
  • In addition, it is thought that many cases of diabetes remain undiagnosed, around 10% of the total.
  • The annual Scottish Diabetes Survey is improving in quality and completeness and is an increasingly important source of information about diagnosed diabetes in Scotland. The most recent survey (2016) is available from the publications section of the Diabetes in Scotland website.

Key statistics:

  Males Females All
Number of new cases diagnosed in 2016 n/a n/a 17,916
Crude prevalence in 20161 n/a n/a 5.4%
Number of deaths in 20162 3,360 2,854 6,214


Note: n/a - not available.

(1) Source: Scottish Diabetes Survey (2016). It is recognised that this may be an underestimate of the true prevalence.

(2) Source: ISD linked database (using deaths data supplied by the National Records of Scotland). The figures are for deaths where there was any mention of diabetes.

Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in September 2017.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end December 2017.
Page last updated: 18 September 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014