Research reveals the real health care cost of diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on August 27, 2015

The health care cost of people with diabetes is double that of those without the condition, new research in Canada has found.

Each person living with diabetes requires care that costs the Canadian health care system an average of $16,000 over eight years, compared to $6,000 in average health care costs for people who don’t live with diabetes.

healthcareCANADA200The study is the most comprehensive Canadian analysis of health care costs related to diabetes to date, with a sample size of almost three million people carried out by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health using data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

It found that the average per-person health care spending for diabetes cases was more than twice that of non-diabetes controls and results in billions of dollars of health care related costs annually.

Over the eight-year study, a female living with diabetes costs the system $9,731 more than a non-diabetic female and a male costs $10,315 more. Roughly $4,000 of these costs related to diabetes were incurred in the first year after diagnosis.

“Diabetes is one of the greatest public health and health system challenges of the 21st century because it’s among the most costly health conditions to manage,” said Laura Rosella, lead author and assistant Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

The study looked at health care costs of almost three million people from 2004 to 2012 using patient specific health administrative data, including hospitalisations, emergency visits, surgery, dialysis, clinic visits, prescription medications, laboratory, rehabilitation and home care and medical devices.

Researchers estimated annual attributable per-person costs, that is dollars spent directly as a result of diabetes related care, as the difference in health care costs between diabetes cases and matched non-diabetes controls.

“We found that the older you are, the substantially higher the cost, and, even after adjusting for other complicated medical conditions and socioeconomic status, attributable diabetes costs are mostly due to hospitalizations, physician visits, prescription medications and medical devices,” said Rosella.

For the 3.4 million Canadians living with diabetes, it decreases quality and length of life, and is a leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputation and blindness among adults, according to Dr. Jan Hux, chief science officer at the Canadian Diabetes Association.

“Looking beyond the impact on individuals, this study documents the heavy and potentially unsustainable burden the condition poses to the health care system,” said Hux.

Rosella, among many other researchers, predicts that diabetes prevalence will increase as a result of a population aging, rising obesity, sedentary lifestyles and decreased mortality rates among people with diabetes.

“It is critical to comprehensively estimate health care costs specifically due to diabetes in order to appropriately allocate health resources and more importantly to determine the economic benefit of diabetes prevention strategies, that is, the health care costs that could be averted if diabetes prevention efforts were to be scaled up,” said Rosella.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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