WATCH: WHO warns of "epidemic" as number of people with diabetes almost quadruples

Diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012

WHO, diabetes, global report, health, Margaret Chan

File photo of a nurse giving a patient a diabetes test | Image: Peter Byrne / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In its first global report on the condition, it says most are living in developing countries, with factors driving the rise including overweight and obesity.

The WHO is issuing a call for action on diabetes and highlighting the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.

"Measures needed include expanding health-promoting environments to reduce diabetes risk factors, like physical inactivity and unhealthy diets, and strengthening national capacities to help people with diabetes receive the treatment and care they need to manage their conditions", it says.

"If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain," says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

"Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes", she adds.

Among the key findings from the report are that the number of people living with diabetes and its prevalence is growing in all regions of the world.

In 2014, 422 million adults - or 8.5% of the population - had diabetes, compared with 108 million (4.7%) in 1980.

In 2014, more than one in three adults aged over 18 years were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.

Diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012.

The WHO says many of these deaths (43%) occur prematurely, before the age of 70 - and are largely preventable through adoption of policies to create "supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and better detection and treatment of the disease".