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Diabetes Cuts Years off Life Span of Americans

Study Shows Sharp Increase in Percentage of Adults With Diabetes
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 1, 2010 -- Diabetes cuts about 8.5 years off the life span of the average 50-year-old compared to a 50-year-old without diabetes, new research indicates.

The study also shows that older adults with diabetes have a lower life expectancy at every age compared to people who do not have the disease. For example, researchers say, the difference at age 60 is 5.4 years; it’s one year by 90.

The findings come from a new report commissioned by the National Academy on an Aging Society and was supported by Sanofi-aventis U.S., a pharmaceutical company. It was based on data provided by the Health and Retirement Study, a survey of more than 20,000 Americans over age 50 done every two years by the University of Michigan.

Increase in Diabetes

“Given the rise in diabetes among boomers and seniors, these findings are alarming,” Greg O’Neill, PhD, director of the National Academy on an Aging Society, says in a news release. “They paint a stark picture of the impact of diabetes and its complications on healthy aging.”

The study shows a significant increase over the past decade in the percentage of adults over age 50 with diabetes, from 11% of non-Hispanic whites in 1998 to 18% in 2008, coinciding with an alarming obesity epidemic affecting most population groups.

The increase among adult non-Hispanic blacks has been even more alarming, from 22% to 32% in the past 10 years, study researchers say.

Compared to older adults without diabetes, patients with the disease are less likely to be employed and more likely to have other health problems, such as heart disease, depression, and disabilities that get in the way of normal life activities, the researchers say.

Scott M. Lynch, PhD, of Princeton University’s Office of Population Research, analyzed data on more than 20,000 adults over the age of 50. The study, described as a “profile,” was written by Nancy Maddox, MPH, a co-founder of Maren Enterprises, a consulting firm specializing in technical and promotional writing in the field of public health.

Many Don’t Realize They Have Diabetes

The researchers say at least 7.8% of the U.S. population, or some 23.6 million people, have diabetes, including 5.7 million who don’t know they do.

The study also shows that:

  • 23.1% of people 60 and older, or 12.2 million people, have diabetes.
  • By 2034, this number will increase to 44.1 million.
  • By the same year, 14.6 million people who are Medicare-eligible will have the disease.
  • Annual diabetes-related spending is expected to reach $336 billion in 2034, which is almost three times the amount spent in 2009.
  • In 2007, diagnosed diabetes cost the U.S. an estimated $116 billion in direct medical costs and $58 billion in reduced productivity.
  • People with diabetes are responsible for about 20% of U.S. health care expenditures.
  • By 2025, more than half of people with diabetes will be 65 and older, and if this trend continues, it will become primarily a geriatric disease. In 2000, people 65 and older accounted for 40% of U.S. diabetes cases.
  • The prevalence of diabetes is projected to more than double between 2005 and 2050 for U.S. residents 20 to 64 and increase 220% for people between 65 and 74. For people 75 and older the prevalence is expected to increase 449%.
  • Diabetes is more common among non-whites; African-Americans are more likely to develop the disease than either whites or Hispanics.
  • African-Americans are more likely to die from diabetes than either Hispanics or whites. The overall diabetes mortality rate is 41% higher for Hispanics than for whites and 113% higher for non-Hispanic blacks than for whites.

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