Diabetes is a significant public health problem resulting in substantial morbidity and mortality. The objectives of this study were 1) to determine the direct medical and indirect costs attributable to diabetes and 2) to calculate total and per capita expenditures of people with and without diabetes.


Direct medical and indirect expenditures attributable to diabetes in 1997 were estimated at $98 billion. Medical expenditures for the treatment of diabetes were estimated for all individuals in the U.S. in 1997 by age-group, sex, race, type of condition, and site of service. Productivity costs due to disability and premature mortality were also estimated for selected patient cohorts. Etiological fractions based on national health care survey data and published literature were used to estimate the proportion of health service utilization and mortality associated with diabetes-related chronic complications and general medical conditions.


Direct medical expenditures attributable to diabetes in 1997 totaled $44.1 billion and comprised $7.7 billion for diabetes and acute glycemic care, $11.8 billion due to the excess prevalence of related chronic complications, and $24.6 billion due to the excess prevalence of general medical conditions. The majority of attributable expenditures were for inpatient care (62%), followed by outpatient services (25%) and nursing home care (13%). Two-thirds of all medical costs for diabetes were borne by elderly people. Attributable indirect costs totaled $54.1 billion and comprised $17.0 billion resulting from premature mortality and $37.1 billion from disability. Total medical expenditures incurred by people with diabetes totaled $77.7 billion or $10,071 per capita, compared with $2,669 for people without diabetes.


The economic burden of diabetes mellitus in the U.S. is enormous. Medical innovations that can delay the onset and slow the progression of diabetes have tremendous potential to mitigate the associated clinical and cost repercussions.

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