Years of Life Without Diabetes Decreasing

Alexandria,
September 23, 2011

Americans are living longer, but fewer of those years are spent in good health for those who are obese because they are developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study being published in the October issue of Diabetes Care.

While life expectancy at age 18 for American men and women increased between the 1980s and the 2000s, the number of years an 18-year-old would expect to live without diabetes fell by 1.7 years for men and 1.5 years for women. Meanwhile, the proportion of 18-year-olds expected to develop diabetes in their lifetimes increased by almost 50% among women and almost doubled among men, researchers at Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the University of Colorado found.

Obese individuals experienced the greatest losses in lifetime without diabetes over the past 20 years, estimated at 5.6 years for men and 2.5 years for women.

“We found a pattern that points to a prolonged period of health problems rather than longer healthy lifespans, but only among obese individuals,” said lead researcher Solveig Cunningham, PhD, of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. “Among non-obese individuals, who represent the majority of the population, lifetimes without diabetes increased during the same period. Therefore, diabetes prevention efforts should now be focused on obese individuals.”

Currently, 34 percent of the US adult population is obese and more than one third of Americans are expected to develop diabetes over their lifetime. However, research shows that type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed through lifestyle change -- specifically, by losing weight and increasing physical activity levels.

“Our results suggest that, in the face of budgetary or logistic constraints, new efforts to prevent diabetes can have the greatest impact among obese individuals, as those who are not obese generally have experienced decreases in risks over the past two decades with current prevention efforts,” the researchers wrote.

The findings also emphasize the potential impact on the nation’s healthcare system, as a growing number of people will be sicker longer. Diabetes-related complications can include kidney and heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, amputations and other serious health problems.

“This study highlights the growing prevalence of diabetes, implying greater future healthcare demand at younger ages and for longer lifespans,” the researchers wrote.

To reach lead researcher Solveig Cunningham, Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, email: sargese@sph.emory.edu or call: 404-727-6486.
 
Diabetes Care, published by the American Diabetes Association, is the leading peer-reviewed journal of clinical research into one of the nation’s leading causes of death by disease.  Diabetes also is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations.

The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.