Diabetes can lower the life expectancy of adults by an average of nine years, researchers in China concluded in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The research team from Peking University explained that the study was inspired by the rapidly increasing prevalence of diabetes in China, where the disease now affects an estimated 100 million adults. Because the increase in diabetes prevalence in China has happened only recently, they said, the eventual effect on mortality was unclear.
The researchers added that most previous studies of diabetes have been carried out in high-income countries
where patients have access to better management of the disease compared with countries like China where care is limited for many diabetes sufferers.
The study included more than 512,000 adults between the ages of 30 and 79 from five rural and five urban areas in different parts of China. The study participants were recruited between 2004 and 2008, and followed up for cause-specific mortality through 2014.
In the study group, six percent had diabetes, with about half those cases being diagnosed during the screening for the research.
The researchers found that adults with diabetes had twice the risk of dying during the follow-up period compared to diabetes-free adults, with diabetes patients in rural areas having a higher risk than those in urban areas.
The study found that diabetes was associated with higher death rates from ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, infection, and liver, pancreatic, and breast cancer. In addition, the risk of dying from acute complications of diabetes (such as diabetic coma) was much greater in rural areas, and for the entire study group, higher than in high-income countries.
Based on their findings, the researchers estimated that the 25-year probability of death was 69 percent among patients diagnosed with diabetes at age 50, compared with 38 percent for similar individuals without diabetes, which equaled a shorter average lifespan of about nine years.
“As the prevalence of diabetes in young adults increases and the adult population grows, the annual number of deaths related to diabetes is likely to continue to increase, unless there is substantial improvement in prevention and management,” the study’s leader, Peking University Professor Li Liming, concluded.