Tayside and Central Scotland

Diabetes life expectancy 'improving', study finds

Insulin injection Image copyright SPL
Image caption People with type 1 diabetes die younger than the general population

Life expectancy for diabetes patients in Scotland has improved, a Dundee University study has found.

A major study carried out by the university and the Scottish Diabetes Research Network showed that people with type 1 diabetes die significantly younger than the general population.

Men with the condition live about 11 years less than those without it, while women live about 13 years less.

However, previous research had reported a gap of between 15 and 27 years.

Major advances have occurred in the treatment of type 1 diabetes over the last 30 years, and scientists said the life expectancy study could help future care plans and in the setting of insurance premiums.

Diabetes is an incurable condition which leaves the body unable to control blood sugar levels, with type 1 causing the pancreas to stop producing insulin, a hormone which regulates the amount of glucose in blood.

Diabetes charities such as Diabetes UK generally cite losses of life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years for type 1 patients, while estimates from the United States in the 1970s reported a loss of 27 years.

However, the study run by Prof Helen Colhoun and Shona Livingstone at the university, shows contemporary life expectancy has improved.

Life expectancy

They studied the cases of more than 24,000 individuals with type 1 diabetes who were aged 20 or older between 2008 and 2010.

They found that 47% of men and 55% of women with the condition survived to age 70, compared to 76% of men and 83% of women without it.

On average, men with diabetes lived for 46.2 further years after turning 20, compared to 57.3 years for men without it.

Average life expectancy for women with the condition from the age of 20 was an additional 48.1 years, compared to 61 years among women without it.

The key culprit in the reduced life expectancy for diabetes patients was related to ischemic heart disease, while kidney disease was also an important contributor.

Early detection

The findings have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sarah Ward, deputy national director of Diabetes Scotland, said: "This large study adds to our understanding of the serious impact of type 1 diabetes on length of life.

"The suggested increase in life expectancy is likely due to the improvements we have seen in diabetes care over the last 20 to 30 years, such as home blood glucose testing, earlier detection of diabetes and management of complications of the condition.

"While this report is encouraging, much more work remains to ensure better routine care for people with type 1 diabetes to enable them to manage their condition and live longer, healthier lives."

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