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This article is part of the supplement: Women's Health Surveillance Report

Open Access Report

Diabetes in Canadian Women

Catherine Kelly1* and Gillian L Booth2

Author Affiliations

1 Women's College Hospital, Univeristy of Toronto, 60 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, Canada

2 St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, 61 Queen Street East, Toronto, Canada

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BMC Women's Health 2004, 4(Suppl 1):S16  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-4-S1-S16

Published: 25 August 2004


Health Issue

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic health condition affecting 4.8% of Canadian adults ≥ 20 years of age. The prevalence increases with age. According to the National Diabetes Surveillance System (NDSS) (1998–1999), approximately 12% of Canadians aged 60–74 years are affected. One-third of cases may remain undiagnosed. The projected increase in DM prevalence largely results from rising rates of obesity and inactivity.

Key Findings

DM in Canada appears to be more common among men than women. However, among Aboriginal Canadians, two-thirds of affected individuals are women. Although obesity is more prevalent among men than women (35% vs. 27%), the DM risk associated with obesity is greater for women. Socio-economic status is inversely related to DM prevalence but the income-related disparities are greater among women. Polycystic ovarian syndrome affects 5–7% of reproductive-aged women and doubles their risk for DM. Women with gestational diabetes frequently develop DM over the next 10 years.

Data Gaps and Recommendations

Studies of at risk ethnic/racial groups and women with gestational diabetes are needed. Age and culturally sensitive programs need to be developed and evaluated. Studies of low-income diabetic women are required before determining potential interventions. Lifestyle programs in schools and workplaces are needed to promote well-being and combat obesity/inactivity, together with lobbying of the food industry for needed changes. High depression rates among diabetic women influence self-care ability and health care expenditures. Health professionals need further training in the use of effective counseling skills that will assist people with DM to make and maintain difficult behavioural changes.