Prevalence of Diagnosed Diabetes in Adults by Diabetes Type — United States, 2016

Kai McKeever Bullard, PhD; Catherine C. Cowie, PhD; Sarah E. Lessem, PhD; Sharon H. Saydah, PhD; Andy Menke, PhD; Linda S. Geiss, MA; Trevor J. Orchard, MD; Deborah B. Rolka, MS; Giuseppina Imperatore, MD, PhD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2018;67(12):359-361. 

In This Article


In 2016, the estimated prevalences of diagnosed type 1 and type 2 diabetes were 0.55% (corresponding to 1.3 million U.S. adults) and 8.6% (corresponding to 21.0 million U.S. adults), respectively. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes accounted for approximately 6% and 91% of all cases of diagnosed diabetes, respectively. Because the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is so much higher than that of type 1, current diabetes surveillance data that do not distinguish diabetes type are more reflective of persons with type 2 diabetes. Recent analysis of diagnosed diabetes prevalence indicates a plateauing among adults aged 20–79 years,[8] but it is not known whether this trend might differ for type 1 diabetes. Because the etiology, treatment, and outcomes of diabetes vary by type, it is important to distinguish between them.

There is no reference standard for classifying prevalent type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes cases in public health surveillance. The presence of autoantibodies against the beta cells of the pancreas and the lack of endogenous insulin secretion are biologic markers of type 1 diabetes. However, beta cell autoantibodies disappear with time and might even be absent at the time of type 1 diabetes diagnosis.[2] Insulin secretion tests are difficult to perform and interpret, making these tests unsuitable for use in cross-sectional surveys. In administrative health databases and electronic medical records, adults with diabetes frequently have International Classification of Diseases codes for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. For this reason, disease coding has been combined with other information (e.g., current prescriptions for insulin or oral hypoglycemic medication) when estimating diabetes type in these data.[9,10] Using type 1 diabetes self-report and current insulin use to classify diabetes type, the percentage of all diabetes cases that were type 1 diabetes fell reasonably within the range of results from other studies (approximately 5%–10%).[3–5,9]

The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, the data were self-reported and underestimate the total number of adults with diabetes. Second, data were not validated, which could have led to misclassification of diabetes type. Adults with self-reported type 1 diabetes who did not report insulin use were reclassified as having type 2 diabetes, which might have resulted in misclassification if they actually used insulin but did not report use. However, self-reported use of insulin is highly specific: <0.02% of persons who reported insulin in a medication log failed to report using it when asked.[5] Some insulin users with type 2 diabetes might have incorrectly reported type 1 diabetes, assuming that taking insulin meant they had type 1 diabetes.[5] In addition, because self-reported cases of unknown type were reclassified as type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes might have been overestimated. However, according to a Canadian survey-based algorithm to distinguish diabetes types, 99% of adults who self-reported unknown type would have been classified as type 2 diabetes.[7] Finally, the small sample size of some subgroups limited precision.

Despite these limitations, this first study to estimate the prevalence of diagnosed type 1 and type 2 diabetes based on self-report and current insulin use among U.S. adults provides information to track prevalence of diabetes by type to monitor trends and assess the burden of disease for education and prevention programs. Knowledge about national prevalences of type 1 and type 2 diabetes might facilitate assessment of the long-term cost-effectiveness of public health interventions and policies aimed at improving diabetes management and help to prioritize national plans for future type-specific health services.