A new study led by UK and Chinese universities highlights the increasing rates of diabetes in China. The disease is linked to a nine-year loss of life in adults - and rural areas are disproportionately affected.
A study of more than 500,000 adults aged between 30 and 79 from five rural and five urban areas in China found that adults who have diabetes lose, on average, nine years of life compared to those without the disease.
The research was led by the University of Oxford and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, who have collaborated on a 30-year study into a wide range of chronic illnesses in China through the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB), known previously as the Kadoorie Study of Chronic Disease in China.
In the past four decades, China has experienced a decline in infectious diseases but an increase in chronic disorders. The CKB compiles crucial data to tackle evolving health issues.
Chen Zhengming, professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford and senior author on the paper, told China Daily: "There has been a substantial decrease in mortality in China due to better treatments. But this trend may be reversed if we don't tackle challenges brought about by lifestyle changes."
It is estimated that around 100 million Chinese adults live with the disease. Chen said increased rates of diabetes are associated with growing obesity brought on by more sugary diets and less active lifestyles.
Chen said a chief concern was disease management. Medication is available, but patient support is underdeveloped, especially in rural areas, leading to many diabetics not medicating appropriately.
"In Europe, not many deaths would be from acute diabetic crisis (coma). In some areas of rural China, 16 percent of diabetes-related deaths were due to acute diabetic crisis."
Chen said the Chinese government's current efforts to consolidate the family doctor system and improve primary healthcare are"essential."
"It's about finding a different way of managing the disease," Chen said.