Members' Research Service By / November 10, 2023

World Diabetes Day 2023

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces.

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Written by Laurence Amand-Eeckhout.

World Diabetes Day – marked every year on 14 November – was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2007, to raise awareness of diabetes and related complications, and to promote prevention and care, including through education.


Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational. Type 1 results from a lack of insulin production and is diagnosed mainly in childhood and in teenagers. Its causes are still unknown. Daily insulin injections are required to keep blood glucose levels under control. Type 2, which accounts for 90 % of all diabetes cases, results from the body being unable to use the insulin it produces effectively. Type 2 is diagnosed mainly in adults, although an increase in cases has recently been observed among children. Type 2 diabetes often results from excess body weight and physical inactivity. A healthy lifestyle, regular physical activity and maintaining a normal body weight can help prevent type 2 diabetes. However, those who have already contracted type 2 diabetes require oral drugs and/or insulin to maintain safe blood glucose levels. Gestational diabetes consists of high blood glucose during pregnancy. Women who are affected and their children are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Know your risk, know your response‘ is the theme of the third year of the World Diabetes Days 2021-2023 campaign ‘Access to Diabetes Care’, underlining the importance of knowing the risk of type 2 diabetes to help delay or prevent the condition.

Facts and figures

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF – an umbrella organisation of over 240 national diabetes associations in 160 countries) approximately 537 million adults (aged 20 to 79) around the world were living with diabetes in 2021. This number is expected to rise to 783 million by 2045. In addition, 541 million adults are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the EU specifically, it is estimated that over 33 million people suffer from diabetes (without counting the undiagnosed).

EU action on diabetes

EU Member States are responsible for their own healthcare policies. However, according to Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, EU action should complement national policies. The EU focuses on prevention, research and information, while also fostering cooperation between Member States. The European Commission addresses diabetes in its work on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is supporting Member States as they work towards reaching the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization’s nine targets on NCDs by 2025, as well as UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, which aims to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030. The Healthier Together EU non-communicable diseases initiative (which covers 2022 to 2027) aims to support EU countries in reducing the burden of NCDs, including diabetes, while improving citizens’ health, as part of efforts to build a European health union. The EU4Health programme and other EU programmes support the implementation of the initiative in the Member States. In the field of prevention, the Commission’s action focuses mainly on the key risk factors for type 2 diabetes, encouraging the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity and the reduction of obesity and the harmful use of tobacco and alcohol.

On 23 November 2022, 100 years after the discovery of insulin, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on prevention, management and better care of diabetes in the EU.

Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘World Diabetes Day 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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