A record 3 million diabetics went to hospital for treatment last year. The number of people who got treated for diabetes increased from 2.01 million in 2010 to 3.03 million in 2018, up more than 1.02 million over the past eight years. The figures come from a report by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service published early this week.
One in every seven people over 30 years or 14.4 percent was diabetic in 2016, the Korean Diabetes Association said based on statistics from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The incidence of diabetes is a little higher among men at 15.8 percent than among women at 13 percent. Alarmingly, the number of young diabetics is growing fast. Diabetes patients in their 20s increased by 34.5 percent between 2015 and 2018 and those in their 30s by 22.5 percent, nearly double the increase rate among those in their 40s and 50s (only about 10 percent).
The main culprit was obesity. Prof. Cho Young-min at Seoul National University Hospital said, "Both the higher incidence of diabetes among men than among women and the rapid increase in diabetes among 30-somethings are due to the increase in obesity.
"Many people do not exercise enough and eat too much since childhood," Cho said. "It seems there is an increasing prevalence of diabetes patients among 20- and 30-somethings because childhood obesity tends to continue into adulthood.
But the real figures could be even more alarming. The Korean Diabetes Association estimates that there are about 5.02 million diabetes patients across the country, which suggests that some 2 million do not even know they have it since only 3.03 million went to hospital last year. Prof. Kim Dae-jung at Ajou University Hospital said, "There may be a lot of latent patients because there are no clear symptoms in the early stage of diabetes."
According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of diabetes among Koreans over 30 is 9.5 percent, which is lower than among Japan's 10.1 percent but similar to the U.S.' 9.1 percent and China's 9.4 percent. But the country's rate is more than double the world average of 4.7 percent.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to cardiovascular diseases and many other complications which greatly affect a quality of life.