Diabetes in Ireland

diabetes federation ireland

There are two distinct types of diabetes, one known as Type 1 diabetes and the other known to as Type 2 diabetes.  The differences and similarities between the two conditions are outlined at the bottom of this page.  

In the absence of a register of people who have diabetes no-one can be entirely sure how many people In Ireland live with diabetes; the Institute of Public Health’s report Making Diabetes Count (2007) estimated that there were about 143,000 people with diabetes in Ireland (based on in 2005 figures) and predicted that this number would increase by 37%, to 194,000 people, by 2015.   

The Institute of Public Health’s subsequent report, Making Chronic Conditions Count (2010), revised upwards the forecasted number of people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, who are over 20 years of age to 194,000 in 2015 and 233,000 in 2020.  Most recently, the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes: The Policy Puzzle, Is Europe Making Progress? (2012) estimates that there are 191,380 people with diabetes in Ireland (with a prevalence of 6.1% in the population) and that by 2030 there will be 278,850 people with the condition (with a prevalence of 7.5% in the population). 

At present 1 in 20 people has diabetes and 1 in 8 of people over 60 has diabetes. 


The figures from the Institute of Public Health refer only to the over 20 years of age population and are themselves based on 2007 population figures.   They do not take into account the thousands of children and young adults living with type 1 diabetes.  Irish paediatricians and endocrinologists estimate that there are between 3,000 and 4,000 children, adolescents and young adults (i.e. those aged 0 to 19 years) living with diabetes in Ireland, virtually 100% of whom have type 1 diabetes.  

The prevalence of type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune condition, is on the rise and is typically diagnosed in childhood.  People with type 1 diabetes account for approximately 14,000 of the total diabetes population in Ireland.     

Preliminary results from the 2011 census indicate that there has been a 5% overall increase in the population of Ireland since 2006, which the population figures for people with diabetes will reflect. 

Based on these latest census returns Diabetes Ireland (formerly the Diabetes Federation of Ireland) now estimate that during 2011 the of people, of all age groups, with diabetes in Ireland (type 1 and type 2 populations combined) reached 191,000.   This means that the population with diabetes is on course to surpass the Institute of Public Health’s prediction. 

The VHI Healthcare Screening Project recently tested 19,000 people aged 45-75 years for type 2 diabetes between 2009 and 2011. VHI Healthcare’s findings demonstrated that there were 2,400 cases of either undiagnosed type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes among those screened. When the figures are extrapolated to the Irish population of 45-75 year olds (1.38 million people) almost 30,000 could have undetected type 2 diabetes and over 146,000 people could have undetected pre-diabetes.

Based on the recorded levels of obesity in Ireland, the Diabetes Federation of Ireland maintains that Ireland in fact reached the predicted 2015 prevalence predictions in 2010. Worryingly, the VHI’s screening showed that 63% of people screened were overweight.  

The economic burden of diabetes on the Irish health care system is becoming a major challenge for the government and the HSE. Prof. J. Nolan’s CODEIRE study published in 2006, which examined the cost of treating type 2 diabetes in Nov-Dec 1999, suggested that 10% of the national health budget is being consumed treating the condition (49% on hospitalisation for complications and wages; 42% on drug costs; 8-9% on ambulatory care and attending non-diabetes specialists for diabetes related complications). CODEIRE remains the best available Irish source for the cost of type 2 diabetes.  In 2011 the national health budget was €14.5 billion.

Further information from the Institue of Public Health on diabetes can be accessed through the “Chronic Conditions Hub”.