Diabetes Statistics

Life expectancy for type 1 diabetics is 12.2% less than general population

by Barbara Hewitt on April 11, 2016

People with type 1 diabetes live around 12 years less compared with the general population so more needs to be done to help them live longer and healthier lives, it is claimed.

A study in Australia, which like many similar countries, including the United States and the UK is seeing higher rates of type 1 diabetes, found that deaths due to cardiovascular disease accounted for 50% of reduced life expectancy.

Overall it found type 1 diabetics have an estimated loss of life expectancy of 12.2 years compared to the general population with life threatening complications of diabetes, such as diabetic ketoacidosis where the body has little or no insulin and uses fat to fuel the body, also playing an important role.

senior-old age

The researchers from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute say that for a country like Australia with one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world, it is important to understand how and where to direct interventions to improve life expectancy.

Study author and head of Diabetes and Population Health at Baker IDI, Dianna Magliano, said the study highlighted that greater attention needed to be paid to both acute metabolic and chronic cardiovascular complications of type 1 diabetes.

“Failing to address either one will continue to leave people with type 1 diabetes at risk of premature mortality,” she pointed out. She also explained that the study also showed that age at onset of diabetes played a role in determining the risk of developing diabetic complications which may affect mortality rate and life expectancy.

“Our study shows there is a small improvement in estimated life expectancy with increasing age of diagnosis,” she added.

The study was based on analysis of a national, population based cohort of over 80,000 Australians with type 1 diabetes who were followed from 1997 to 2010, which looked at both sexes across all age groups.

Magliano said a key strength of the study was the long follow-up of a large national cohort of type 1 diabetes linked to a national mortality registry and accurate identification of mortality. She said as the study was a contemporary nationwide registry based cohort study the results were likely to be applicable to other similar western countries.

In another report researchers say that the life expectancy gap between type 1 diabetics and the rest of the population has not really improved in recent years. The study by Dr Dennis Petrie of the University of Melbourne in Australia and Professor Björn Eliasson of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden looked at death rates between 2002 and 2011.


For men with type 1 diabetes, the remaining life expectancy at age 20 increased significantly by about two years from 47.7 in 2002/2006 to 49.7 years in 2007/2011 while for women with type 1 diabetes there was no significant change, with an life expectancy at age 20 of 51.7 years in 2002/2006 and 51.9 years in 2007/2011.

However, cardiovascular mortality did significantly reduce for both men and women over the period. For men a similar increase in life expectancy was also seen in the general population, showing that the life expectancy gap between patients with type 1 diabetes and the general population has not changed over this time frame, remaining at approximately 11 years for men and 12 years for women.

“There is still some way to go in terms of improvement in care for those with type 1 diabetes in order to close the gap with the general population,” the study report concluded.

However, diabetes charity JDRF pointed out that life expectancy for people with type 1 has improved. It says that just a few years ago, the difference between life expectancy for the general population and people with type 1 was put at 15 to 20 years whereas the new study puts it at 12.2 years.

It explained that medical research has produced new treatments like different types of insulins, pumps and continuous glucose monitors, but it is very difficult to predict the future and the impact of these and they won’t be seen on life expectancy figures for some years.

It added that life expectancy is very difficult to measure, as people are diagnosed with type 1 at various ages, and of course there is a very wide variation in how people with type 1 are able to manage their condition.

“Life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes has improved in recent years, thanks to medical research driving innovations in treatment, but the impact of these won’t be seen on life expectancy figures for some years,” said Karen Addington, chief executive of JDRF in the UK.

“However, these numbers show that the gap between people with type 1 and the general population is not closing as quickly as we, and everyone with type 1, want it to. This is why we are driving research into novel treatments for type 1 that will completely change the way it is managed. Right now, we are supporting over 50 clinical trials around the world and we are committed to reducing the burden of type 1, and its impact on children, adults and families living with it, until we find the cure,” she added.


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