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The True Cost of Diabetes

November 27, 2023

Our Diabetes Awareness Month newsletter series is focused on raising awareness of diabetes. The series will consist of four articles, which will be released once a week throughout the month of November. Each article will cover different aspects of diabetes, offering information and resources aimed at reducing the stigma associated with diabetes, encouraging early diagnosis, and promoting healthy lifestyle choices to prevent and manage diabetes effectively.

Diabetes is a common disease with significant costs beyond the financial burden, including the physical and emotional tolls. As diabetes is a chronic condition that must be addressed daily, it will affect patients’ activities of daily living, mental health, and finances. It is essential to consider all of these aspects to care for a patient with diabetes properly.

It has been shown that patients with diabetes are much more likely to have physical limitations than those without diabetes. This effect can be seen across all age groups, with the greatest impact on younger patients. In particular, physical tasks involving leg function may be most impaired in patients with diabetes. Furthermore, patients with diabetes can have decreased health-related quality of life compared to those without diabetes, which was shown to be primarily driven by a decrease in physical functioning.

In addition to the physical burdens, patients with diabetes also experience significant emotional burdens. Diabetes can severely impact a patient’s social life and mental well-being due to the need for constant self-management and medication adherence. The combination of all the additional stress on patients with diabetes can lead to diabetes distress, which can present through anger, denial, frustration, and loneliness. Diabetes distress over time can lead to burnout, causing patients to ignore blood sugar checks, appointments, and medication adherence. This lack of management can lead to severe complications such as loss of vision, amputations, and nerve damage.

Diabetes is also a very costly disease because it is a chronic condition. In the US in 2022, the total cost of diabetes was $412.9 billion. The average cost of medical care for each patient with diabetes is approximately $16,750 per year, 2.3 times higher than for patients without diabetes. Patients with diabetes also have increased indirect costs through decreased productivity at work or an inability to work because of disease-related disability. The cost of diabetes is projected to increase significantly to $835 billion by 2030 in the US alone.

The true cost of diabetes goes well beyond the financial burden placed on patients. It is crucial to consider the physical and emotional burdens so that patients can experience comprehensive care to improve their daily lives and mental health and reduce the monetary costs of diabetes. The combined burdens and projected increase in costs of diabetes care show that it is imperative to find innovative and multi-faceted approaches to care for these patients.