Diabetes among young Australians

Diseases Diabetes Australia

This is the first report from the National Centre for Monitoring Diabetes to examine the management and impact of diabetes in youth in Australia.

Diabetes affects a considerable number of young people: in 2010, about 31,300 Australians aged 0-30 years with diabetes were registered with the National Diabetes Service Scheme. Most (79%) had Type 1 diabetes. This report explores how young Australians with diabetes are managing their condition, their use of health services and the diabetes-related health problems they experience.

The report findings are based on a range of data sources spanning the years 2001-2011.

In 2010, about 31,300 young Australians with diabetes were registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme. Most (79%) had Type 1 diabetes. In 2007-09, 21,123 young Australians regularly obtained insulin through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, buying it 257,054 times. In the financial year 2009-10, there were 15,500 diabetes-related hospitalisations for this age group recorded in the National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Insulin pump use and blood glucose monitoring

  • More than 7,300 people aged 0-30 (22% of people with Type 1 diabetes in this age group) used insulin pumps to treat their diabetes between 2004 and 2011. Insulin pump use was most common among people under 19.
  • Only people with Type 1 diabetes using insulin pumps bought enough blood glucose test strips to meet recommended daily monitoring levels.
  • People aged 19-24 bought blood glucose test strips at lower rates than other age groups, which suggests they are not managing their diabetes as well as others.

Health care sources

  • Paediatricians and general practitioners (GPs) were the main providers (34 and 35% respectively) of insulin prescriptions for people under 19. GPs (70%) and endocrinologists (15%) were the main source of prescriptions for people aged 19-30.
  • Young people with diabetes can have difficulty making the transition from paediatric to adult diabetes centres, and can experience poor health outcomes as a result.

Complications of diabetes and mortality

  • Compared with other age groups, children aged 0-11 years had the highest rates of presentations for diabetes to hospital emergency departments in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.
  • People under 25 were hospitalised more often than those aged 25-30 for acute diabetes- related complications, such as ketoacidosis.
  • The number of hospitalisations for ketoacidosis among people aged 0-24 increased over time from 2002-03 to 2009-10. These hospitalisations were associated with the presence of acute illnesses and a 'history of non-compliance with medical treatment', especially among people aged 12-24.
  • Serious but preventable long-term complications of diabetes were already evident in some people aged 19-30, including nerve damage, foot ulcers, eye and kidney disease.
  • Diabetes was the underlying cause of death of 88 people aged 0-30, and an associated cause of death for a further 76 in 2001-07. Most of these deaths occurred in people aged 25-30.
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