Media releases

July 9, 2013

The biggest future health threat to Australia goes unrecognised by the majority

New research conducted by Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line reveals the majority (99%) of Australians do not know all the major symptoms of diabetes or how many types there are1, despite it affecting 3.6 million people nationwide2 and costing the economy $6 billion per year3.

The research also exposed a link between lower income levels and increased lack of awareness. 1 in 10 Australians with a low household income do not know any risk factors associated with diabetes. Conversely, almost all (97%) of those with high household incomes could identify major risk factors4.

Diabetes going undiagnosed is a huge global problem; the International Diabetes Federation estimates 183 million people worldwide are unaware of their condition.

Awareness of risk factors and their management is more important than ever. Although a change in lifestyle, namely improved diet and increased exercise, can reduce the development of Type 2 diabetes by up to 71%5, almost two thirds (58%) of those surveyed did not realise progression of the condition can be slowed.

There is a strong link between obesity and diabetes, which has recently overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. MONASH University estimates if Australians continues to gain weight at the current pace, by 2025, 80% of adults will be overweight or obese6. Worryingly almost 1 in 5 did not recognise that obesity is a risk factor for diabetes.

Commenting, Dr. Ian Boyd, Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line Medical Director says:

'Although Type 2 diabetes is the World's fastest growing chronic disease and one of the leading causes of death in Australia, the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line research highlights a worrying lack of knowledge around lifestyle choices that can lead to or advance the condition, and strategies that can help minimise risk and progression.

'It is important that as a nation we educate ourselves about all types of diabetes - although much rarer, Type 1 and gestational diabetes are also serious life threatening conditions if left undiagnosed.

'A healthy diet is one of the key ways to both prevent the onset of diabetes Type 2 and also to manage it. At Medibank we believe in supporting our members to make healthy living choices and now reward our members with three flybuys points for every dollar they spend on fresh fruit and vegetables at Coles.

'There are plenty of free online resources that can educate people about risk factors and symptoms - we recommend if people have any concerns about diabetes they should also talk to a medical professional such as their local Doctor or Nurse.'

Medibank members with hospital cover can speak to a qualified nurse at any time of the day or night on the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line.

To support National Diabetes Week, 14-20 July 2013, Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line is planning special events in NSW and WA for both members and non-members, to hear experts discuss diabetes first-hand.

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