Type one diabetes knocks 12 years off a person’s life, according to a major study. Alarming figures reveal life expectancy has not improved in two decades
The shocking toll of the condition, which 78,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with every year, has not improved since the 1990s.
Researchers examined the life expectancy of type one diabetic patients in Australia from 1997 to 2010.
Although life expectancy improved marginally throughout the period, it rose no more than life expectancy for the rest of the population, meaning the gap stayed the same.
The team, from the Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, found that people with type one diabetes had a life expectancy of 68.6 years, which was 12.2 years less than the general population.
Type one diabetes is an irreversible autoimmune disease which usually strikes in childhood, and stops the body producing insulin.
Its cause is unclear, but it is thought to be genetic. Unlike type two diabetes, type one, has nothing to do with lifestyle.
The authors, writing in the journal Diabetologia, said: ‘Early onset of diabetes tended to be a predictor of premature mortality.
‘Deaths from circulatory disease and endocrine and metabolic disease contributed most to early mortality in type one diabetes.
‘For improvements in life expectancy, greater attention must therefore be paid to both the acute metabolic and chronic cardiovascular complications of type one diabetes.
‘A failure to address either one will continue to leave type one diabetic patients at risk of premature mortality.’
They added: ‘As this is a contemporary nationwide registry-based cohort study of type one diabetes, the results are likely to be applicable to other similar Western countries.’
In a linked comment article, Dr Lars Stene, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, said: ‘It seems that the gap in life expectancy has remained largely unchanged since the turn of the millennium…
‘There have been remarkable increases in life expectancy in the general population of Sweden, Australia and other countries, in part because of a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.
‘Cardiovascular risk management is an integral part of diabetes care, and it is likely that patients with type 1 diabetes have enjoyed some of the beneficial developments that do not involve blood sugar control alone.’
Karen Addington, UK chief executive of the type one diabetes charity JDRF, said: ‘Life expectancy for people with type one diabetes has improved in recent years, thanks to medical research driving innovations in treatment like new insulins, pumps and continuous glucose monitors.
‘But the impact of these won’t be seen on life expectancy figures for some years.
‘However, these numbers show the gap between people with type one and the general population is not closing as quickly as we, and everyone with type one, want it to.’