Diabetes and the huge economic burden it imposes: Here’s what you should know

For years, diabetes has been a prominent health concern in India. A considerable number of Indians suffer from diabetes and the various health complications associated with it. According to the recent National Family Health Survey-5 conducted by the Government of India, around 16.8 per cent of males and 14.6 per cent of females across 22 states and UTs in India were estimated to be diabetic. While exacerbated by the pandemic-induced isolation, various genetic and environmental factors have also resulted in the growing prevalence of diabetes, affecting millions of people in the country. Often perceived to be an ‘urban’ condition for the relatively affluent and elderly, diabetes has spread wide in urban, semi-urban and rural geographies among individuals with varied incomes.

Diabetes: A heavy financial burden

A recent study by the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC) found that over half of men, and nearly two-thirds of women aged 20 years could develop diabetes in their lifetime, with most of those cases likely to be type 2 diabetes. Given that, youngsters are part of the most productive demographic, this could have grave implications for the economy, due to mortality and the years of healthy lives lost. A potentially high incidence of diabetes among them threatens the economic productivity of a country along with the income-earning ability of individuals. Moreover, due to lower public health spending or subsidised treatment, out of pocket expenditure for the treatment of diabetes is higher. Increased out of pocket expenditure deprives people of their discretionary spending power and severely affects their lifestyles. The cost of medical treatment can be difficult to bear for the low-income population, thereby aggravating financial distress.

In addition to the macroeconomic impact of the disease, diabetes takes a tremendous toll on patients, both emotionally and financially. The economic toll of diabetes is immense, particularly in a developing nation such as India. While there are easily discernible and substantial ‘direct costs’, such as the cost of diagnosis, treatment and prevention, there are multiple ‘hidden’ or ‘indirect’ costs which cannot be easily seen. These include the costs of lost productivity, absenteeism, and impact on mental health, among other factors.

The role of holistic diabetes care

An effective way to manage the condition involves meticulous planning and adherence to a proper dietary and fitness regime. Holistic diabetes care includes addressing the risk of complications, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and undergoing regular check-ups. A holistic strategy for diabetes care which incorporates the multiple facets of planning, monitoring, and improved mental health can go a long way in protecting one from the heavy economic burden of diabetes-related health complications.

Additionally, consistent monitoring to address diabetes-related complications and achieving necessary glycaemic targets are essential. Advances in medical technology has simplified monitoring. Devices such as glucometers can help people with diabetes identify trends and patterns related to their blood glucose levels. This data can then be used by doctors to alter the patient’s diabetes management plan. Thus, people with diabetes should ensure a meticulous record of their blood sugar levels, by using glucometers at home.

When it comes to holistic diabetes care, the importance of a support system cannot be emphasized enough – encouragement, proper care and the constant support of well-wishers is crucial in the journey against the condition.  As diabetes is a chronic disease with a lifelong impact on the patient, a person needs a strong will to prevail. A ‘can do’ attitude and a will to overcome helps patients make the necessary lifestyle choices and adhere to them over the long run.

Last, but not the least, an optimistic mindset toward life helps immensely. Not only does it make life easier, but it also results in lower stress and blood sugar levels. A stress-free mind also leads to better sleep, better metabolism, and thus, better all-around health.

Patients must realize that diabetes is a long-term lifestyle disease which cannot be addressed instantaneously. Being hasty and expecting quick results will not be helpful. Instead, patients must realize that beating diabetes requires sustained efforts over a long duration. Thus, instead of quick fixes, they need to adopt actionable measures for the long run!

The author is MD, DM, Senior Consultant Cardiologist. Views are personal.

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