Study Shows Increase in Diabetes Patients and Life Expectancy


Every year, more and more Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus and, according to a recent study, in the near future that number could reach close to 40% of the population.

Every year, more and more Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus and, according to a recent study, in the near future that number could reach close to 40% of the population.

The study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, was conducted by Edward Gregg, PhD, and a team of researchers that looked to provide a clearer picture of the lifetime risk of development of diabetes and what that could mean in a variety of aspects of patients’ lives. Using the National Health Interview Survey and other data, including information from the SEARCH study, the team studied mortality data from 1985 to 2011 for a group of nearly 600,000 adults.

Factors studied included “remaining lifetime diabetes risk, years spent with and without diagnosis, and life-years lost due to diabetes.” The large group of data was broken into three subsets: adults diagnosed from 1985-89, 1990-99, and 2000-11.

The authors noted that in the latter group the lifetime risk of people above the age of 20 being diagnosed was 40.2% (95% CI 39.2-41.3) for men and 39.6% (38.6-40.5) for women. That was a jump of 20 and 13 percentage points from the starting group, according to the authors.

Data from the study also showed that Hispanic men and women and non-Hispanic black women were at the greatest risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. Their likelihood, the study showed, was more than 50%.

Although the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has increased over the years, treatment options have helped to decrease the number of life-years lost. In the group from 1990-99, a person diagnosed at 40 would have lost 7.7 years. (95% CI 6.5-9.0) That number dropped to 5.8 years (4.6-7.1) in the 2000 group for men. In women, the number dropped from 8.7 years (8.4-8.9) to 6.8 years (6.7-7.0).

“Because of the increasing diabetes prevalence, the average number of years lost due to diabetes for the population as a whole increased by 46% in men and 44% in women,” the authors noted. “Years spent with diabetes increased by 156% in men and 70% in women.”

Looking at the totality of the data the authors said, “These findings mean that there will be a continued need for health services and extensive costs to manage the disease, and emphasize the need for effective interventions to reduce incidence.”

The authors noted the growth in the numbers was likely due in large part to “the increase in incidence of diagnosed diabetes, and to a lesser extent, the decline in mortality of the general population.”

They also looked at two other “important shifts,” in the growing number of diabetes cases. “First, the lifetime risk of diabetes in men drew even with women, emphasizing the prominent decline in mortality and the continued increasing diabetes incidence, in addition to the already higher diabetes incidence in men compared with women,” they said. “Second, the synergistic effect of increasing diabetes incidence and declining mortality on lifetime risks are particularly profound for ethnic minorities.”

Funding for the study was provided by the department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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