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Today, diabetes mellitus is one of the most serious health challenges facing the more than 30 million African Americans. The following statistics illustrate the magnitude of this disease among African Americans.

  • In 1993, 1.3 million African Americans were known to have diabetes. This is almost three times the number of African Americans who were diagnosed with diabetes in 1963. The actual number of African Americans who have diabetes is probably more than twice the number diagnosed because previous research indicates that for every African American diagnosed with diabetes there is at least one undiagnosed case.
  • For every white American who gets diabetes, 1.6 African Americans get diabetes.
  • One in four black women, 55 years of age or older, has diabetes. (Among African Americans, women are more likely to
  • Twenty-five percent of blacks between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes.
  • African Americans with diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes complications and experience greater disability from the complications than white Americans with diabetes.

How Many African Americans Have Diabetes?

National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS) conducted between 1963 and 1990 show that African Americans have a rising prevalence of diabetes. (Prevalence is the percentage of cases in a population.) Most African Americans with diabetes have Type 2, or noninsulin-dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually develops after age 40. However, in high-risk populations, susceptible people may develop it at a younger age. A small number of African Americans have Type I or insulin-dependent diabetes, which usually develops before age 20.

NHIS conducted from 1991 to 1992 indicate higher rates of diabetes among African Americans than among white Americans. At age 45 or older, the prevalence of diabetes is 1.4 to 2.3 times as frequent in blacks as in whites. The greatest difference seen in NHIS was among people aged 65 to 74. Figure 1 details these 1991-92 NHIS statistics. Statistics collected in 1993 indicate that in this age group, 17.4 percent of black Americans had diagnosed diabetes, compared to 9.5 percent of white Americans.