Young haredi Israelis 1.5x more likely to get diabetes than secular Jews - Health Ministry

Some 89% of ultra-Orthodox households buy sweet snacks compared to 74% in the general public. 

Haredi men walk through Mea Shearim, Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi men walk through Mea Shearim, Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A haredi (ultra-Orthodox) young person is 1.5 times more likely to develop Type II diabetes than a non-haredi young person, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry originally reported that haredim aged 25-34 were 15 times more likely than the rest of the Jewish population to develop the disease, but then retracted and revised the report.

According to the full report, which was released on Tuesday evening, in most age groups, the likelihood of developing diabetes is higher among ultra-Orthodox.

The gap is most significant among individuals 35 to 44, who are 1.7 times more likely in the haredi community to develop diabetes compared to the general Jewish sector.

The rate of increase in the ultra-Orthodox community is significantly higher than among the rest of the population, too. Between 2017 and 2019, there was a 16.2% increase in the rate of diabetes among the haredim and only an 8.4% increase in the rate among non-haredi Jews.

Coca Cola (credit: REUTERS)Coca Cola (credit: REUTERS)

The new data supports data published recently in a report prepared by the Health Ministry with the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, which was also shared by the ministry’s Nutrition Division in a release on Monday evening. That report found significantly high consumption of harmful foods among families in the ultra-Orthodox community compared to the general public.

Some 89% of ultra-Orthodox households buy sweet snacks compared to 74% in the general public, the report showed. Moreover, some 93% buy salty snacks compared to 67%.

Additionally, 74% buy sweet drinks compared to 51% in the general public – a statistic that relates to one published earlier this year by the Central Bureau of Statistics that showed that haredi families spend NIS 90 a month on sugary drinks compared to only NIS 65 a month among the rest of the population.

The ministry said that much of the situation is spawned by the haredi way of life, where from as early as preschool children receive sweet things as rewards. This practice continues in their Talmud Torahs and yeshivas, as well as in kollel programs. Moreover, there is a focus on sweet things on holidays and at other celebrations.

Consumption of sugar increases the risk of developing diabetes, the ministry said.

The ministry said that it plans to take action, including recruiting haredi influencers and other professionals to help change ultra-Orthodox diets and reduce the spread of diabetes.

Last year, explained Dr. Moran Blaychfeld Magnazi, some wheels were already put in motion, including launching a pilot program in various yeshivas where a haredi dietitian and chef came to offer workshops.

“We had good results and we want to expand that,” Magnazi said.

Future plans include offering nutrition courses in schools and seminaries, as well as tapping into connections in local municipalities and at NGOs to spread a message of health. The ministry is also working with rabbis and schools.