To determine the prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and its risk factors in the Chinese population.


This study was a population-based cross-sectional study of 224,251 residents aged 25–64 years in 19 provinces and areas, including cities and rural areas of the north, south, east, and middle part of China.


Using the 1985 World Health Organization criteria, the prevalence of diabetes and IGT was 2.5 and 3.2%, respectively, in 213,515 subjects aged 25–64 years. Two thirds (70.3%) of the cases had newly recognized diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in China is about three times higher than it was 10 years ago. On average, subjects with diabetes are older, have higher personal annual incomes, and more often have a family history of diabetes. They also have higher mean BMI, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and a greater prevalence of hypertension. They perform less physical activity and have less education than people with normal oral glucose tolerance test results. Multiple logistic stepwise regression analysis shows that age, BMI (or WHR), family history of diabetes, hypertension, less physical activity, and higher annual income are independent risk factors of NIDDM, and that low education is also an independent risk factor of NIDDM in people with higher personal annual income.


The prevalence of diabetes in China is increasing with economic development and changes from traditional to modernized lifestyle, especially where people had lower level of education and socioeconomic development. Therefore, Chinese people should attempt to retain certain features of their traditional lifestyle (physical activity, healthy food, moderate body weight). Increased knowledge of risk factors for diabetes may help to prevent a further rapid increase in the prevalence of diabetes in China.

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