America's Rising Diabetes Rates

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

It’s the kind of health statistic we don’t want to hear: in less than a decade, the percentage of adults diagnosed with diabetes has risen in 18 states. During that same timeframe, there were no states that saw a decline in diabetes. The data comes from the Gallup-Sharecare-Well-Being Index, and it’s a wakeup call to many Americans that we need to take diabetes more seriously. Where does your state rate in terms of diabetes diagnoses?

Mary Shomon/HealthCentral

States with increased diabetes rates

Between 2008 and 2017, five states had an increase of at least two percent: West Virginia, Louisiana, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. The remaining states with increases include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

USA map multicultural group of young people.

Which states have the highest rates of diabetes?

West Virginia has the highest diabetes rate in the U.S. at 17.9 percent. Other states with high rates include South Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee.

USA state puzzle pieces.

Which states have the lowest rates of diabetes?

Alaska has the lowest rate of diabetes diagnoses at 8.4 percent. Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, and Vermont also have rates less than 9 percent. Even though the rate increased in Colorado, the state is among the six states in the U.S. that have a diabetes prevalence of less than 9 percent.

Searching for reason why on tablet.

Why are diabetes diagnoses increasing?

Experts believe that the rates of diabetes are increasing in large part due to the increasing rates of obesity. In fact, obesity quadruples the odds that adults will be diagnosed with diabetes. If a state has a rising obesity rate, they have more than double the chance of also having an increase in diabetes.

Doctor measuring obese man.

Increases in obesity and diabetes rates

In 2008/2009, 26 percent of adults in the U.S. were obese. Less than ten years later, that rate is 28.3 percent. During that timeframe, obesity rates also increased in 34 states. No states saw a decline in obesity rates.

In 2008/2009, the rate of diabetes was 10.8 percent. This level rose in 2016/2017 to 11.5 percent, representing almost 2 million adults in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes during that timeframe.

Type 2 diabetes concept.

What types of diabetes increased?

The Well-Being Index included all cases of diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), but type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes diagnosed in the U.S. Type 2 diabetes is linked to lack of physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, family history, and most importantly, obesity rates.

United States flag map.

Where does your state rank?

The graphic from the Gallup Sharecare 2017 State and Community Rankings shows the 50-state rankings, from the state at in first place with the lowest rate of diabetes — Alaska — to West Virginia in the last place, with the highest rate of diabetes

Not making good lifestyle choices.

Are you at risk for diabetes?

Up to 1.5 million Americans are newly diagnosed with diabetes every year. You are at increased risk of becoming one of them if you:

Healthy lifestyle.

How can you reduce your risk of diabetes?

You can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by:

  • Losing weight
  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Stopping smoking
  • Eating healthier foods and controlling your carbohydrate intake
Dietitian meeting with new patient.

Your next steps

If you have risk factors for diabetes – whether or not you live in a high-risk state – it’s smart to see your health care provider for a fasting glucose test, as well as a hemoglobin A1C test (HbA1c). The results – along with an assessment of your weight and other risk factors – can help you determine if you have prediabetes or diabetes and map out a sensible treatment approach.

Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.