Open Access Research article

The impact of diabetes prevention on labour force participation and income of older Australians: an economic study

Megan E Passey1*, Rupendra N Shrestha2, Melanie Y Bertram3, Deborah J Schofield24, Theo Vos3, Emily J Callander24, Richard Percival5 and Simon J Kelly5

Author Affiliations

1 University Centre for Rural Health--North Coast, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, 61 Uralba St, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia

2 NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney, 92-94 Parramatta Rd, Camperdown, NSW 1450, Australia

3 School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston Rd, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia

4 Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 1450, Australia

5 National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra, University Drive South, Bruce, ACT 2601, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-16

Published: 6 January 2012



Globally, diabetes is estimated to affect 246 million people and is increasing. In Australia diabetes has been made a national health priority. While the direct costs of treating diabetes are substantial, and rising, the indirect costs are considered greater. There is evidence that interventions to prevent diabetes are effective, and cost-effective, but the impact on labour force participation and income has not been assessed. In this study we quantify the potential impact of implementing a diabetes prevention program, using screening and either metformin or a lifestyle intervention on individual economic outcomes of pre-diabetic Australians aged 45-64.


The output of an epidemiological microsimulation model of the reduction in prevalence of diabetes from a lifestyle or metformin intervention, and another microsimulation model, Health&WealthMOD, of health and the associated impacts on labour force participation, personal income, savings, government revenue and expenditure were used to quantify the estimated outcomes of the two interventions.


An additional 753 person years in the labour force would have been achieved from 1993 to 2003 for the male cohort aged 60-64 years in 2003, if a lifestyle intervention had been introduced in 1983; with 890 person years for the equivalent female group. The impact on labour force participation was lower for the metformin intervention, and increased with age for both interventions. The male cohort aged 60-64 years in 2003 would have earned an additional $30 million in income with the metformin intervention, and the equivalent female cohort would have earned an additional $25 million. If the lifestyle intervention was introduced, the same male and female cohorts would have earned an additional $34 million and $28 million respectively from 1993 to 2003. For the individuals involved, on average, males would have earned an additional $44,600 per year and females an additional $31,800 per year, if they had continued to work as a result of preventing diabetes.


In addition to improved health and wellbeing, considerable benefits to individuals, in terms of both additional working years and increased personal income, could be made by introducing either a lifestyle or metformin intervention to prevent diabetes.