Diabetes: Excess deaths well down, study indicates
The extra risk of dying for people with diabetes has fallen sharply since the mid 1990s, research suggests
It found in 2009 people with diabetes were 1.5 times more likely to die than those without it in a given period - down from two times as likely in 1996.
The study, in journal Diabetologia covering millions of Canadian and UK patients, concludes this may be due to better treatment and earlier diagnosis.
Diabetes UK says thousands of patients are still dying prematurely every year.
Since the mid 1990s the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has climbed from fewer than one and a half million to three million.
The disease and its often-fatal complications - including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure - pose a huge and growing challenge for the NHS.
But this study points to progress in cutting deaths. In the mid 1990s, it suggests, people with diabetes were almost twice as likely to die in a given period as those without the disease. By 2009, it indicates, that figure had fallen to about one and a half times the risk.
The findings are based on population-based databases from Ontario and the UK over the years 1996 to 2009. The researchers compared mortality rates in people with diabetes - including types I and II - and those without.
In the UK cohort, covering more than three million patients, the excess risk of death for people with diabetes in 1996 was 114%.
By 2009 this had fallen to 65%. In the Ontario database, comprising about 10 million patients, it fell from 90% to 51%.
This narrowing of the mortality gap was seen across all adult age-groups, men and women. However, the authors acknowledge their findings should be treated with caution.
They speculate that the improvements may be due to more aggressive treatment, including control of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. But they say the findings may also reflect improved screening, meaning more patients nowadays have not had diabetes for so long.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research for Diabetes UK, said the research was "really good news" - but he warned there was still a long way to go.
"Every year many thousands of people with diabetes in the UK are still dying before their time. This is unacceptable and urgent action is needed to further improve the situation."
Dr Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England's national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, also welcomed the findings, but he said there was still more work to do.
"There are wide regional variations across the country in helping patients manage their condition and this is now a key focus for us."
"By supporting patients to better manage their diabetes, we can work towards reducing the number of patients who suffer complications including amputations or loss of sight," he said.