The diabetes epidemic in Malta
Aim: The small European Mediterranean island state of Malta is a highly prevalent type 2 diabetes (T2DM) country. Over recent decades drastic environmental, cultural and ethnic changes occurred and it was considered timely to undergo a cross-sectional survey to establish up-to-date prevalence of T2DM, its socio-geographical distribution and ultimately estimating the economic burden of T2DM.
Methods: A health examination survey was conducted (2014-16) including a representative sample of the adult population stratified by 18-70 years, gender and locality (n=3,947; males n=1,997 male). The survey consisted of a socio-demographic questionnaire, various health examination measurements and blood samples for fasting blood glucose (FBG). Prevalence for T2DM (depending on medical history, medication and FBG >7mmol/L) were calculated for the general population as well as for each of the districts making up the Maltese Islands. The economic burden of T2DM for 2017 and projected burden for 2045 were calculated using secondary sources and by incorporating 2% compound interest per annum respectively.
Results: A total response rate of 47.15% was obtained, with a mean age of 48 years for males and 46 years for females. Out of the total adjusted population (n=3,947, male n=1,998), the prevalence of T2DM was of 10.31%, with 6.31% already known to have T2DM while 4% were newly diagnosed. Females were diagnosed with T2DM at an earlier age than the males. No significant geographical T2DM prevalence differences were established. The total annual diabetes health care expenditure was approximately €107,316,517.82 for 2017, while the projected expenditure for 2045 was estimated at €244,136,040.
Conclusion: Malta is a country with a high prevalence of diabetes. The females were observed to be at an earlier risk of developing undiagnosed diabetes compared to males. Although geographical location did not appear to have significant effect on T2DM distribution, this disease contributes to a high economic burden. The expected exponential increase in diabetes prevalence is subsequently expected to affect negatively the healthcare expenditure. This puts forward the recommendation for development of early screening programmes as part of preventive action strategies.
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