Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in Australia. Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated.)

Type 1 diabetes develops when your pancreas is no longer producing insulin to break down sugar/glucose in the body. Type 2 diabetes develops when your body is no longer able to efficiently release insulin from the pancreas to maintain health blood glucose levels.

Farming men, women and agricultural workers who live rural are at potential at risk of developing diabetes, due to rural and remote communities experiencing higher rates of diabetes compared to major cities.  An increased risk is attributed to the rising use of modernised farm equipment, vehicles and farm technology. These sedentary changes result in increased physical inactivity from sitting in machinery and excess energy from food not being burned up. When excess energy is not burned by the body, it is converted to body fat which can potentially sit around the waist as abdominal fat. Large waist measurements and excess abdominal fat is one of the greatest risk factors in the development of Type 2 diabetes. Other factors which increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes include: family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight or obesity and an unhealthy diet.


To see if you might be at risk of diabetes, take the test. It only takes a few minutes.

In most cases Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through diet and exercise. A few lifestyle choices or changes can help protect against developing Type 2 diabetes.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight – this can be done through exercise and healthy eating (outlined below)
  2. Exercise regularly – try to build some activity in to daily routine. For example, walk instead of taking the ute or quad bike.
  3. Make healthy food choices – concentrate on getting enough servings of veggies, grains and lean meats. See the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating for more information. Also, visit our Fact Sheet on Healthy Lunchbox ideas.
  4. Manage your blood pressure – talk to your GP about how they can help you with this.
  5. Manage cholesterol – while cholesterol can be influenced by your genetics, diet is really important in keeping cholesterol levels within a healthy range. See this Heart Foundation Fact Sheet on Healthy eating and cholesterol for more information. Talk to your GP about how they can help you with this.

Often farmers are very busy and put off taking care of their health.  Living in rural and remote communities may involve long distance travel to access health services a doctor or dietician. There are online and phone services that are confidential and will help support you to manage your health and reduce your risk of diabetes. Read more about preventing diabetes at Diabetes Australia

References used for this topic page

More information:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Diabetes  (year)

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Rural and remote health (Australia’s health 2016)

Diabetes Australia
Life! Helping you prevent diabetes, heart disease and stroke

Department of Health, Australian Government
Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

Diabetes Australia
Are you at risk? (Type 2)

Diabetes Australia

Diabetes Australia
Data snapshot – Type 2 Diabetes (September 2017)

Clinical care:

Diabetes Australia
Best practice guidelines for health professionals

Research & reviews:

Australia Journal of Rural Health
Diabetes risk factors, diabetes and diabetes care in a rural Australian community

BMC Public Health
The association of levels of physical activity with metabolic syndrome in rural Australian adults

World Health Organization (WHO)

Fast facts:


  • Diabetes is common and very serious condition, but it can often be prevented.
  • Make the time to exercise and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes; manage your weight to manage your health. Make sure you build some activity into your daily routine.
  • Living a long way out of town can make access to fresh food difficult. Start a veggie garden and grow some of your own healthy food.

Last updated: 6th January, 2018