More Women Being Hospitalized for Diabetes

Findings from a new study show a shift in the burden of diabetes hospitalizations to young women--and the culprit is a familiar one.

A study published in Journal of Women’s Health suggests that there has been a rapid increase in the number of hospitalizations due to diabetes for young adults—particularly young women. Diabetes hospitalizations rose 66% for all ages and sexes, but the number of diabetes hospitalizations among younger adults ages 30-39 more than doubled from 1993 to 2006.

This pattern of hospitalizations echoes the dramatic increase in rates of obesity across the US the last 30 years, according to Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at University of Michigan Health System C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Young women were 1.3 times more likely to be hospitalized than young men, a finding that the authors believe might be attributable to higher rates of obesity for women vs. men in this age group.

Another possibility is that women with diabetes may be sicker than their male counterparts, which could be related to the medical care that they receive. For example, younger women with diabetes are less likely to receive preventive care for their diabetes, they wrote.

“Our findings suggest that further attention must be paid to the young adult population,” said Lee, the study’s lead author, in a statement. “We need more diabetes prevention interventions targeting the young adult population, and women in particular, to prevent further increases in diabetes. In addition, we need more medical care interventions to improve the overall health of young adults with diabetes.”

The findings reveal a serious shift in the burden of diabetes and predict a heavy future financial toll. Adjusting for inflation, hospital charges for diabetes in 2006 tallied $200.1 billion compared with $62.5 billion in 1993, according to researchers.

“As rates of diabetes continue to increase, particularly among young adults, the future economic burden on Medicare will only escalate as people age,” said Lee.

The investigators also found the following:

  • Starting in 1993, more women than men were hospitalized with diabetes even after exclusion of hospitalizations associated with pregnancy. Rates were higher among women in the younger age groups, but higher among men after age 50.
  • For all ages and sexes, diabetes hospitalizations increased, from 10.3% in 1993 to 17.6% 14 years later.

Pregnancy is a well-known trigger for diabetes in women, but the new study shows it was not the biggest culprit. Rather researchers believe the higher rates of hospitalizations among young women, ages 20-39, compared to men were potentially due to increases in diabetes prevalence related to the higher national rates of obesity for women vs. men in this age group.

Another possibility is that the greater rate of hospitalizations among women compared to men is due to increased morbidity among women. Previous studies have shown that women with diabetes use less preventative care, are less likely to receive aggressive medical management, and experience worse outcomes after hospitalization for cardiovascular problems.

For more information:

  • HCPLive.com Diabetes Resources
  • APHA National Diabetes and Women's Health Initiatives
  • High blood pressure predicts new-onset type 2 diabetes in women

Why do you think women with diabetes tend to use less preventative care and are less likely to receive aggressive medical treatment? What can be done to reverse this trend?