Two recent studies show encouraging increases in the life expectancy for type 1 diabetes patients, but the gap between life expectancy for diabetics and the general public has remained the same for the last 10 years
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that is required to break down glucose. Patients with this condition must constantly monitor and regulate their blood sugar level. As well, they are at risk for cardiovascular problems and organ damage over the long-term, particularly if the condition is not well managed. As a result, type 1 diabetes has been associated with reduced life expectancy.
Two recent studies, from Australia and Sweden, indicate that some progress has been made in increasing the average lifespan for type 1 diabetes patients. In the Australian study, which looked at mortality data for diabetes patients between 1997 and 2010, the average life expectancy for individuals with type 1 diabetes was found to be 68.6 years. During the 2004-2010 period, however, the life expectancy was about 2 years higher for men, and 1.5 years higher for women, than it had been during the 1997-2003 period, thus showing an overall improvement in health outcomes for patients with this condition.
At the same time, the study also showed that average life expectancy among the general population was 12.2 years higher than the type 1 diabetes average, and had experienced a comparable increase during the 2004-2010 period. Thus, although important improvements have occurred, there remains a substantial gap between life expectancy for diabetes patients and for the general population.
In the Swedish study, health records from over 20,000 patients over the age of 20 in Sweden’s National Diabetes Register, covering the period 2002 to 2011, were examined and compared with death records from the same period. The results indicated that, in men with type 1 diabetes, life expectancy increased by about two years, from 67.7 years in 2002-2006 to 69.7 years in 2007-2011. No significant change was seen in women, who had a life expectancy of 71.7 years in 2002-2006 and 71.9 years in 2007-2011.
The Swedish study also noted that a similar increase in life expectancy for men occurred among the general population over the same period of time. Overall, life expectancy among the general population was found to be 10-11 years higher for men and 11-12 years in women, compared to life expectancy for patients with type 1 diabetes.
Authors of both studies point to the need for continued attention to the risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular complications among type 1 diabetes patients. Focusing on these risks would stimulate further improvements in life expectancy, and possibly narrow the gap between life expectancy for diabetes patients compared to life expectancy in the general population.
Written By: Linda Jensen