Updated 01 March 2017

Who gets type 2 diabetes?

Certain population groups have a much higher incidence of diabetes than others. But there are also general risk factors to take into consideration.


The percentage of South Africans with diabetes is highly variable among geographical regions and populations groups, therefore estimates are often inaccurate.

Recent figures show that 180 million people worldwide have diabetes, most of whom (75 – 80%) have type 2 diabetes.

There are particular populations with a very high incidence of type 2 diabetes. For example, 40% of Pima Indians in North America have type 2 diabetes.

The risk factors for type 2 diabetes are:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • An abnormal lipid profile
  • A family history of the disease

Who would be the typical person at risk for type 2 diabetes?

The typical person would be:

  • an overweight adult
  • older than 40 years
  • an individual who does not exercise regularly
  • the pattern of obesity is usually a predominance of central fat deposition, which means that the belly or waistline are disproportionally enlarged compared to the limbs
  • a person with a family history of obesity (many type 2 diabetics have a family history of obesity and possibly even “late onset diabetes”)

For more information on care and support of diabetes visit Diabetes South Africa or phone them on 086 111 3913.

- (Diabetes SA, Health24, updated May 2009)


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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