Less than a third of people realise that Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health complications such as amputation, heart attack, blindness and stroke, according to a new survey commissioned by Diabetes UK ahead of today's launch of a £2 million national awareness campaign to encourage people to have their risk of Type 2 diabetes assessed.
Awareness of complications
Just 30 per cent of the 1,000 people who took part in the ICM Research survey were aware that people with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to go blind, while awareness that heart attacks (15 per cent), amputation (28 per cent) and stroke (seven per cent) are complications of diabetes was even lower. And just 13 per cent of people knew that the condition increases risk of death, despite the fact that people with Type 2 diabetes are 36 per cent more likely to die in any given year than someone their age who does not have the condition.
Biggest-ever diabetes advertising campaign
We are concerned that, although up to 80 per cent of Type 2 cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes, unless people understand the seriousness of the condition, they are unlikely to see the need to find out their own risk or make the lifestyle changes that can help prevent it. This is why we have today launched the UK's biggest-ever diabetes advertising campaign to highlight its possible consequences, including the devastating impact it can have on families.
The £2 million advertising campaign, which will include on-street, radio, transport and digital advertising, is funded as part of Diabetes UK's National Charity Partnership with Tesco, which aims to raise £10 million to help those affected by or are at risk of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes risk factors
The advertising campaign aims to raise awareness of the risk factors – being overweight; having a waist of over 94cm (37 inches) if you are a man or 80cm (31.5 inches) for women (or 89cm/35 inches for South Asian men); having a close relative with diabetes; or being over 40 (or over 25 for South Asian people).
At the moment, just half (50 per cent) of people can identify being overweight as a risk factor, while only 13 per cent realise that having a family member with diabetes puts people at increased risk. And less than one per cent of people mentioned being South Asian or black as a risk factor.
Check your risk of Type 2 diabetes
We are urging people to have their risk assessed if any of these risk factors apply to them, so they can find out whether they are one of the estimated 7 million people in the UK who is at high risk. You cancheck your risk online, go to a Tesco pharmacy, other pharmacy, or visit your GP.
There are already 3.8 million people with diabetes in the UK. Unless more is done to prevent Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for the vast majority of cases, this figure is projected to rise to 5 million by 2025. This would be a public health disaster that would place a huge strain on the NHS.
"Public health disaster"
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "You only have to spend five minutes talking to someone who has lost their sight or has lost a leg as a result of Type 2 diabetes to realise the devastating impact the condition can have. But this survey makes it clear that most people do not understand the potential consequences of developing it and I worry that until we finally lay to rest the myth that Type 2 diabetes is a mild condition, it will continue to be seen as something that is not worth being concerned about. This is a misconception that is wrecking lives, and is the reason that as a country we are sleepwalking towards a public health disaster of an almost unimaginable scale.
Relatively simple lifestyle changes
"But the good news is that developing Type 2 diabetes is not just a question of fate. By doing relatively simple things like losing some weight, eating more fruits and vegetables and becoming more active, we can all significantly reduce our risk, even if our ethnicity or family history has put our risk at a higher starting point.
"Check your risk today"
"This is why I hope our advertising campaign will help people realise why it is so important that they understand their own risk of Type 2 and making lifestyle changes if they are one of the 7 million of us who are at high risk. We need to send out the strong message that burying your head in the sand can be disastrous. If any of the risk factors apply to you then you should check your risk today."
Tesco National Charity Partnership
The advertising campaign will run from today (Monday) to October 6. It is part of a number of initiatives being funded by Diabetes UK's National Charity Partnership with Tesco. The partnership aims to support the millions of people who have to live with diabetes every day; help hundreds of thousands of people take action to reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes; and fund investment into research into a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes.