November 13, 2018

Sun Life Financial Asia’s Diabetes Awareness Study 2018 reveals a gap in the understanding of diabetes and how to prevent and manage the condition

  • The second annual 5-market study shows an improvement in the public’s understanding of multiple types of diabetes
  • Many are unwilling to support a diabetic family member by making dietary changes such as adopting a low sugar or low-carbohydrates diet
  • There is a wide understanding that annual screening of diabetes is necessary but a gap in people taking preventative measures

[Hong Kong, November 13, 2018] The latest Sun Life Financial Asia Diabetes Awareness Study themed “Family and Diabetes” reveals that although there is an improvement in awareness and understanding of Type 2 diabetes overall since the 2017 study, there is a  substantial gap between this understanding and the number of people actually taking preventative measures against diabetes, such as undertaking diabetes screening.

82% of respondents in Asia are aware that there is more than one type of diabetes, which has slightly increased since 2017 (77%). Hong Kong (from 71% in 2017 to 83% in 2018) and Vietnam (from 69% in 2017 to 86% in 2018) are the markets which have seen substantial improvement in diabetes awareness levels.
 

Commenting on the findings, Jeremy Young, Chief Marketing Officer, Sun Life Financial Asia, said: “It is encouraging to see an improvement in the public’s understanding of diabetes across the five Asian markets in this year’s Diabetes Awareness Survey. Sun Life, as a leading international financial services and asset management organization with a strategic focus on promoting awareness, prevention and management of diabetes to help people live healthier lives, has commissioned this year’s study to echo the theme of the 2018 World Diabetes Day – “The Family and Diabetes”. The study aims at understanding the public’s awareness of diabetes and identify the gaps in preventive measures they are willing to take to combat this prevalent health challenge.”

Is diabetes hereditary?

Regionally, 53% of respondents believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents. The majority of respondents from the Philippines, 77%, believe that diabetes is related to inheritance from parents, which is the highest score amongst the five markets. However, only 30% of respondents from Vietnam believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents, a drop of 9% from 2017.

According to the World Health Organization[1], Type 2 diabetes can be caused by genetic and environmental risk factors such as poor diet or lack of exercise. Studies have also revealed that first degree relatives of individuals with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to, but not necessarily will, develop the disease. However, recognizing the risk factors and adopting lifestyle changes can delay or prevent diabetes from occurring.

Growing understanding of early detection through annual screening but lack of action

90% of respondents in the region agree that diabetes screening is necessary[2], but only 67% of respondents were screened for diabetes, revealing a significant gap in those taking preventive action. In particular, less respondents from Hong Kong (72%) and Chinese ethnic groups in the region (78%) think it is necessary to have annual screening for Type 2 diabetes with their family. More Hong Kong respondents (47%) than in other markets claim to have never been screened for diabetes before. This compares with 33% regionally who have never been screened and only 18% in Vietnam who have not.

More Hong Kong respondents (21%) think that there is no need to screen children for diabetes compared to only 10% regionally, despite increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among children[3]. Additionally, Hong Kong respondents believe diabetes screening should only be necessary once a child is over 13 years old on average, whereas regionally the accepted age is a year younger at just over 12 years old.

 
Belinda Au, General Manager, Distribution and Marketing, Sun Life Hong Kong Limited, said: “With the purpose of helping people lead healthier lives, and being an advocate of having an active lifestyle, we will host the Sun Life Resolution Run 2019 in Hong Kong, a family fun run event for all ages, on 27 January 2019. Diabetes Hongkong has been named as the beneficiary of the Sun Life Resolution Run 2019, and it will receive HK$20 from every race registration.”

 
Encouraging support for diabetic family members by taking up a low-carbohydrates or sugar diet

Regionally, there is an increase in understanding of how a diet high in carbohydrates and not just a high-sugar diet is a risk factor for diabetes. In the 2017 study, only 51% cited a high-carbohydrates or starchy diet being a risk factor for diabetes compared to the 67% this year, which shows respondents are becoming more knowledgeable on the risks which lead to diabetes. However, despite this understanding, only 38% of respondents are willing to take up a low sugar or low-carbohydrates diet with diabetic family members.

 
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About the Sun Life Financial Asia Diabetes Awareness Study

The Sun Life Financial Asia Diabetes Awareness Study is a five-market regional study, inaugurated in 2017, focused on measuring the public’s understanding and perception towards diabetes. The research was conducted by Ipsos, an independent market research house, in October 2018 through online interviews with 3,860 respondents aged 25 years old and above in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

 

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth and asset management solutions to individual and corporate Clients. Sun Life Financial has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda. As of September 30, 2018, Sun Life Financial had total assets under management of C$984 billion. For more information please visit www.sunlife.com.
 

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.


Notes to editors:

  1. World Health Organization – “Genetics and Diabetes” (p.1 and p.6)
  2. According to World Health Organization’s “Global Report on Diabetes”, in terms of screening for Type 2 diabetes, some evidence suggests there are benefits to early detection and treatment, largely because the reduced lead time between onset and diagnosis speeds the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors. (p.48)
  3. Center for Health Protection and Department of Health - “Non-Communicable Diseases Watch” (p.2)


Appendix - Highlights of Sun Life Financial Asia Diabetes Awareness Study 2018

 

Hong Kong

  • 41% of Hong Kong respondents believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents.
  • Hong Kong respondents estimated that 1 in 4 of the local population is diabetic (23%). In reality, 1 in 10 people in Hong Kong have diabetes, according to the Hong Kong Primary Care Office, Department of Health.
  • While diabetes is perceived to be a wide spread health issue, only 53% of respondents have been screened for diabetes.
  • While 61% of respondents believe lack of physical activity or exercise is a contributing factor for diabetes, only 28% of respondents are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member.

 

Indonesia

  • 68% of respondents in Indonesia believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents, which is much higher than the regional average of 53%.
  • While the most widely thought of contributing factors for diabetes are having a high-carbohydrates/starchy diet (78%) and the lack of physical activity or exercise (64%), only less than half of respondents (49%) are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member and 35% of respondents are willing to change their diet to support a member of their family with diabetes.
  • 97% of respondents from Indonesia think that screening for diabetes with family should take place at least once a year, as compared to 90% regionally.

 

Malaysia

  • 62% of respondents from Malaysia are aware that there is more than one type of diabetes.
  • 50% of respondents are willing to change their diet to support a member of their family with diabetes, as compared to 38% regionally, and 32% are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member.
  • Most respondents know that a high-carbohydrates diet (63%), in addition to lack of exercise (53%) is a high risk factor for diabetes.
  • 93% of the respondents think that screening for diabetes is necessary, as compared to 90% of respondents from the region, but 27% have never been screened for diabetes before.

 

The Philippines

  • 77% of respondents from the Philippines believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents.
  • 32% of respondents are willing to change their diet to support a member of their family with diabetes, and 47% are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member.
  • Most people know that a high-carbohydrates diet (76%), in addition to lack of exercise (65%) is a high risk factor for diabetes.
  • 95% of respondents from the Philippines think that screening for diabetes is necessary, as compared to 90% regionally.

 

Vietnam

  • 30% of respondents from Vietnam believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents. Vietnam is the market with the lowest score in 2018.
  • Over 70% of respondents felt that a high-carbohydrates diet or sugar-rich diet are contributing factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. However, only 36% of respondents are willing to make dietary changes with a member of their family with diabetes.
  • Vietnam had the highest percentage (78%) of respondents citing lack of physical activity/exercise as the top contributing factor for diabetes. However, only 42% are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member.
  • 96% of respondents think that screening for diabetes is necessary.
  • 82%of respondents have been screened for diabetes, as compared to the regional average of 67%.

 

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