Study reveals higher than expected life expectancy reduction for early onset diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on August 22, 2018

Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular health complications and a higher risk of premature death than being diagnosed later in life, a new study has found.

Indeed, life expectancy for those with younger onset diabetes is on average 16 years less and 10 years shorter for those diagnosed at a later age, according to the observational study from scientists in Sweden and the UK.

Diabetes Child

(By Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com)

The study carried out by scientists at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Glasgow followed over 27,000 individuals with type 1 diabetes and more than 135,000 matched controls for an average of 10 years.

It’s well known that people with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk of health problems and have shorter life expectancies, partly due to premature cardiovascular disease. But, until now, the impact of age of diagnosis on this excess mortality and cardiovascular risk was unclear.

With around half of individuals with type 1 diabetes diagnosed before the age of 14, the study authors stress the need to consider wider and earlier use of cardio-protective measures such as statins and blood pressure lowering drugs in this high risk population.

‘Although the relative risk of cardiovascular disease is increased after an early diabetes diagnosis, the absolute risk is low. However, age at disease onset appears to be an important determinant of survival as well as cardiovascular outcomes in early adulthood, warranting consideration of earlier treatment with cardio-protective drugs,’ said Dr Araz Rawshani who co-led the research.

The new estimates suggest that individuals diagnosed before the age of 10 have a 30 times greater risk of serious cardiovascular outcomes like heart attacks than those in the general population, whilst risk levels are around six times higher for people diagnosed between ages 26 and 30.

People with younger onset type 1 diabetes are four times as likely to die from any cause and have more than seven times the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than their diabetes free counterparts. In contrast, people first diagnosed between ages 26 and 30 face a lower three fold risk of dying from any cause and cardiovascular disease compared to their peers without diabetes.

The research also found that excess risks were particularly pronounced in women, with those diagnosed before age 10 facing a 60 fold higher risk of heart disease and 90 times increased risk of heart attack than matched controls.

In comparison, men with younger onset diabetes have a 17 times greater risk of developing heart disease and 15 times higher risk of having a heart attack in early adulthood compared to those in the general population.

‘While the absolute risk levels are higher in individuals who develop diabetes when older, simply due to age being a strong risk factor, the excess risk compared to healthy controls is much higher in those who developed diabetes when younger,’ said Professor Naveed Sattar, co-author, of the University of Glasgow.

‘If this higher excess risk persists over time in such individuals, they would be expected to have highest absolute risks at any given subsequent age. Indeed, those who develop type 1 diabetes when under 10 years of age experience the greatest losses in life expectancy, compared to healthy controls. This is something we did not fully appreciate before,’ he added.

Both authors said that the impact of type 1 diabetes on younger people should not be underestimated, and there is a need to consider adding recommendations about age of onset in future guidelines.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is the second most common chronic disease in children, accounting for 85% of diabetes in the under 20s. But it’s not unusual to develop the disease as an adult. Worldwide, the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children aged 14 years and younger has risen by 3% a year since the 1980s.


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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivan August 28, 2018 at 4:47 am

More great news.

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Ivan August 28, 2018 at 4:48 am

I hope they cure type1 diabetes before I die.

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Ivan September 4, 2018 at 5:21 am

More good news for type1 diabetics. Where is the type1 cure?

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