Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes ‘complacency’ takes 12 years off life expectancy


Australians with type 1 diabetes will lose an estimated 12.2 years of average life expectancy from birth, when compared with the general population, new research has revealed.

And the study, published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Diabetologia, reveals the large gap in life expectancy between patients with T1D and the general population has not improved during the past two decades.

Co-author, Associate Professor Dianna Magliano, Head, Diabetes and Population Health Laboratory at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, said she and her fellow researchers were surprised that there had not been any improvement in the gap despite developments in treatments, education programs and access to chronic disease management programs.

She said the results could not be taken lightly.

“We can’t be complacent, we’ve made a lot of inroads in stopping these people dying in their 20s and 30s but there is still a long way to go, and a lot more to be done,” she told the limbic.

The researchers used the National Diabetes Services Scheme, which has registered close to 100 per cent of all Australians with T1D, to examine the life expectancy of patients from 1997 to 2010.

A total of 5,981 deaths were identified during the 902,136 person-years of follow-up. During these years patients with T1D had an estimated life expectancy at birth of 68.6 years, which was 12.2 years less than the general population (11.6 years less for men and 12.5 years less for women).

The major contribution to years of life lost (YLL) was mortality from endocrine and metabolic disease at age 10–39 years (men, 39–59%; women, 35–50%) and from circulatory disease at age 40 years and over (men, 43–75%; women, 34–75%).

A second study in the same journal used health records from the Swedish National Diabetes Register (NDR) and found similar results.

Professor Magliano said the gap reflected the results of a lifetime’s exposure to glycaemia, highlighting the importance of keeping patients in a regular therapy regime. Typically, patients with T1D tend to have less compliance during adolescence but most get back on track when they return as adults for treatment and disease management.

She said it was important not to underestimate the psychological impact T1D – and other chronic diseases – had on patients struggling to manage with the daily challenges of chronic illness.

“They can get sick of being sick all the time and that can be a big issue for many patients,” she said.

Professor Magliano said clinicians should be aware of this potential impact and refer patients on for specialist treatment. Early intervention was the key, she said.

“Don’t be complacent,” she urged.

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