Rates of diabetes in Ireland have grown by up to 70 per cent since 1980, according to a new study published in The Lancet.
The number of adults with the disease worldwide has quadrupled, from 108 million to 422 million in 2014, as it becomes a major problem in low and middle income countries, the study says.
"Diabetes has become a defining issue for global public health. An ageing population, and rising levels of obesity, mean that the number of people with diabetes has increased dramatically over the past 35 years" said Professor Majid Ezzati, senior author from Imperial College London, London, UK.
Between 1980 and 2014, diabetes has become more common among men than women. Adjusting for age, the incidence of the disease increased from 4.3 per cent to 9 per cent for men, and from 5 per cent to 7.9 per cent for women.
In Ireland, the rate for men grew from 4.3 per cent to 7.3 per cent, and for women from 3.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent.
The study says most of the rise in diabetes in Western Europe since 1980 was due to the ageing of the population. In contrast, rates increased significantly in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and Mexico. No country saw a significant decrease in diabetes prevalence.
The highest rates of diabetes in the world are in Polynesia and Micronesia; in American Samoa, for example, nearly one-third of the adult population has the disease.