Contrary to the conventional perception that diabetes is a "rich man's disease," a survey has found that elderly, poor and less educated people, as well as Aboriginal people and those with family records of diabetes, are more likely to have the disease.
The national health survey, which was conducted last year, shows that a person's education level seems to be related to their chances of contracting diabetes, with 18 percent of the illiterate, 11.4 percent of primary school graduates, 4.8 percent of middle-high graduates, 2.5 percent of high school graduates and 1.5 percent of those with a college of higher qualification having been diagnosed with diabetes.
The survey found that 4.9 percent of people 15 years or older are diabetic, with males outnumbering females by a small margin.
In terms of education attainment, illiterates are 2.9 times as likely as those with a college education to have diabetes.
The risk for people with a family history of diabetes is 3.6 times that for people with no such history, the survey indicates.
Marking World Diabetes Day, the president of the Taiwanese Association of Diabetes Educators said that his association was focusing its campaign on telling people that diabetes is a disease of the less privileged, rather than of the well-to-do.
The less privileged are more likely to be hit by diabetes because many people in developing and developed countries are not covered by the healthcare system, while in some cases diabetics do not know that a care system is available or how to use it.
More than 1 million people in Taiwan are diabetics, according to official figures.
The figures show that one person dies of the disease about every 50 minutes, making it the nation's fourth-leading cause of death.
An official at the Bureau of Health Promotion said that at the end of last year, only 170,000 of the nation's diabetics had joined a pilot program to reward patients if their quality of life had improved as a result of medication.
The official called on more diabetics to join the program, which is aimed at enhancing the quality of care for diabetes patients and is offered at more than 100 hospitals around the country.