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West Virginia, 28 Other States Were Hot Spots for Diabetes Cases Over 2 Decades

West Virginia, 28 Other States Were Hot Spots for Diabetes Cases Over 2 Decades

In these 29 states, the number of diabetics relative to the population rose by at least 10% from 1997 to 2016, according to the latest data from the CDC.
Taking a measurement of blood sugar.
Taking a measurement of blood sugar. Source: Getty Images

Diabetes cases increased by 5.6% on average across all states and the District of Columbia from 1997 to 2016, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data available at the state level.

In fact, at least 10% of the population in 29 states had diabetes as of 2016, led by West Virginia at 15%. California, Texas, Florida and other highly populated states also had a high percentage of diabetics. Here's what else we discovered.

Key findings

In nearly three out of five U.S. states, at least 10% of residents had diabetes in 2016 — led by West Virginia

The percentage of West Virginia residents with diabetes rose by 8.7% in the two-decade period from 1997 to 2016, while the state's population remained virtually unchanged during the same period. With a stable population, the gross number of the state's cases grew by 149%.

Georgia and Florida were among the most populous states to see the highest increase in their share of diabetics over the two-decade period from 1997 to 2016 — Georgia by 8% and Florida by 6.1%. The Florida population in that period rose by nearly 6 million, versus by nearly 3 million in Georgia.

Diabetes cases on average increased by 5.6% — to 2.3 million cases total — across all states and the District of Columbia from 1997 to 2016.

No state experienced a two-decade surge in cases of greater than 8.7%, but no state saw a contraction in the number of diabetics relative to its population. Colorado got the closest, as the share of diabetics in the state increased by just 2.7% during the two decades. The District of Columbia was the most densely populated area that had the lowest growth rate. In the U.S. capital, diabetes cases increased by 3.2% in the 1997-to-2016 period, the third-lowest growth rate.

There were far more states where the share of people with diabetes crept over 10% of the state's total population by 2016. In fact, at least 10% of the residents in 29 states had diabetes. West Virginia again was the leader, as 15% of the state's population as of 2016 was diabetic. Colorado had the lowest number of diabetics relative to its population, with 6.6%.

Large states increased their share of diabetics as their populations increased.

  • In Florida — which added nearly 6 million people from 1997 to 2016 — the percentage of people with diabetes increased by 6.1%.
  • In Texas, where the population grew by 8.6 million, an additional 5.3% of people were diagnosed with diabetes.
  • In New York — which saw a population increase of 1.5 million — and California — which grew by nearly 7 million — 5.7% and 4.6% more people had diabetes in 2016 than in 1997, respectively.

Men, oldest Americans were the most likely groups to see gains in the share of diabetics from 1997 to 2016

Men were far more likely to develop diabetes than women over the period we scrutinized. From 1997 to 2016, diabetes among men grew by 5.1% on average, compared with 4.2% for women. The CDC reported in its 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report that 11% of men and 9.5% of women have diabetes — figures calculated using survey data from 2013 to 2016, the latest available.

For women, cases increased the most in Arkansas. In the state, 8% more women had diabetes in 2016 than in 1997. On the other hand, diabetes proliferated at a slower rate in Colorado, with an increase of just 1.6% in the same period. This means again, however, that no state saw a negative change in its rate of diabetes for women (or men).

A larger share of the country's men was diabetic in 2016 than in 1997. Cases in Arizona increased the most, by 8.9%, while cases in Illinois increased the least, by 2.3%.

The state with the highest proportion of diabetic men and women was Alabama, where 13.6% of men and 12.9% of women were diabetic in 2016.

Diabetes was most likely to increase among older Americans from 1997 to 2016. The number of diabetics increased by 10.6% on average among people ages 65 to 74, which covers half of the baby boomer demographic. This percentage was higher than the rate at which diabetes increased among those 75 and older — 9.8%.

In 26 states, the percentage of diabetics 75 and older relative to a state's population was at least 10%. The highest increases in this category came from South Carolina (16.4%) and California (15.2%). On the other hand, the average growth rate in diabetes cases for those ages 65 to 74 was greater than 10% in 28 states, summiting at 17% in Pennsylvania.

People with diabetes will have higher medical expenses than other people, meaning consumers will have to compare rates to find their cheapest and best health insurance options.

In the last five years of available data, cases increased across all counties by less than 1% on average

The CDC's data allowed ValuePenguin to take a more detailed look at how diabetes cases changed in the recent past. We analyzed changes at the county level and found that Jackson County, Arkansas, had the highest increase in the number of diabetic cases in the five-year period from 2012 to 2017 — the most up-to-date period available. In Jackson County, the percentage of diabetics rose by 17.3%.

In the most populated counties in the country, the rate at which diabetes increased relative to the share of the population was fairly low. In fact, in many of the largest counties, the percentage of diabetics decreased. Clark County, Nevada — where Las Vegas is located — had the largest increase at 1.7%, while Middlesex County, Massachusetts, saw the largest decrease at 1.5%.

County percentage in 2017
1Los AngelesCalifornia0.0%8.4%
5San DiegoCalifornia0.1%7.3%
9KingsNew York-1.1%9.5%
11QueensNew York-0.3%10.2%
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Besides Jackson County, there were 29 other counties where the number of diabetics relative to the local population increased by at least 10%. Of these counties, Georgia housed seven, or 23% of all counties with a growth rate greater than 10%.

Despite the steep growth in some counties, the share of population at the county level remained about even from 2012 to 2017, as it grew by just 0.9% on average.

Unlike at the state level, many counties did record an overall reduction in cases relative to their populations. Bleckley County, Georgia, recorded a drop in the number of diabetic cases by 8%, the highest county drop in the U.S. in that period.

There were 731 counties in which the share of residents with diabetes shrank by at least 1%. This number translates to 23% of counties surveyed. In 61 counties — 2% — the number of cases remained the same from 2012 to 2017.


ValuePenguin gathered data from the CDC's diabetes dashboard. After pulling figures for states, counties, gender and age, we organized the data by the change in diabetic cases. Our analysis included the District of Columbia but not Puerto Rico or the rest of the U.S. territories.