Diabetes is expensive. It’s an annoyingly costly, big budget, monstrous money pit, and I know no one who has ever thought ‘This diabetes thing is an awesome way to have less disposable cash.’

I used to refer to the money I paid for insulin pump consumables as ‘shoe money’, because for the three or so years after starting on a pump, and before consumables being listed on the NDSS, I couldn’t afford to feed my shoe habit as regularly as I’d have liked. 

More than twenty years later, my family’s finances may be a little more comfortable than back when Aaron and I were newlyweds with a newly-minted mortgage, but the cost of diabetes still factors into our budget, and it’s undeniable that sometimes diabetes feels as thought we’re flushing hard-earned cash down the loo.

I remember a few years ago tallying up my annual diabetes costs and I got so depressed I bought a new handbag. This makes no sense to anyone other than me, but I felt better, momentarily forgetting that I was a drain on my family, with a lovely new bag to carry around all my expensive diabetes paraphernalia.

Last week, JDRF Australia launched a new report which breaks down the economic costs of living with diabetes. It looks at costs to the individual with diabetes (and their family), as well as costs to health systems, health budgets and the economy. It also looks at how significant savings can be made by better investing in technology subsidies.

I can’t help but read these sorts of figures and get defensive because I already feel as though I am burden to the world and this just quantifies it. But that’s not the intent, and actually, having this sort of data is incredibly useful when adding up just what diabetes costs. It’s useful for diabetes organisations in our advocacy, and it’s useful for people in the diabetes community too. 

Of course, it’s important to remember that while putting a dollar figure on life with a chronic health condition is important, that is only ever one part of what needs to be included in its expenses. The non-monetary costs are huge, and must also be counted. There is the emotional toll, the physical toll and the impact on family and friends. And there is time. There is hypo recovery time, hyper management time, diabetes admin time and health appointment time. There is the time we spend on advocacy efforts, time dedicated to keeping our diabetes inventory in check and time spent every single day on diabetes tasks. There’s the time we spend dealing with burnout and distress. It adds up to so, so, so much time.

Not everyone has the desire or inclination to get out front and do some advocacy for themselves, but if you are that type of person, this report from JDRF gives you an added tool in your armoury. In fact, used with the most important part of the case you put forward – your lived experience – and evidence from clinical and behavioural research, you have a fabulously well-rounded picture of just how heavy the diabetes load. This provides a very useful case to take to your local Member of Parliament. Your MPs work for you – get them working! 

This is what I spoke about at the World Health Organisation Informal Consultation on Diabetes – putting together a complete narrative which wins hearts and minds. It’s impossible to ignore! 

You can watch the live Q & A I hosted with JDRF Australia CEO, Mike Wilson by clicking on the video below, and keep the conversation going at the Diabetes Australia and JDRF Australia Facebook pages.


I work for Diabetes Australia, and hosting these regular Q&As is part of my role. I was not asked to write about today’s Q&A, however, am sharing because this may be of interest to others in the diabetes community.