Statistics show that life expectancy in people with type 1 diabetes is improving. The latest evidence comes from researchers from Dundee University in Scotland.

The researchers reviewed the records of 24,691 adults over 20 years old with type 1 diabetes between 2008 and 2010. Participants were selected from a nationwide register. In addition to studying life expectancy, the researchers also looked to see whether early death was associated with diabetic kidney disease.

The results showed that the men with type 1 diabetes lived, on average, to 66.2 years old, which is 11 years shorter than males without the condition, which lived to 77.3 years. 47% of males with type 1 diabetes live until 70. In patients with type 1 diabetes and good kidney function, life expectancy was 69.0 years.

Women with type 1 diabetes lived, on average, to 68.1 years, which was around 13 years less than the 81.0 years for those without the condition. 55% of females with type 1 diabetes lived until 70. In women with type 1 and good kidney function, life expectancy was 73.1 years.

Cause of earlier death

Whilst presence of kidney disease lowered life expectancy rates, it did not have as much of an effect as the researchers had been expected. The largest cause of death was ischemic heart disease, leading 36% of deaths in males and 31% of deaths in females.

Death from diabetic coma and ketoacidosis represented the highest risks of death in people that died before the age of 50.

Reason to be hopeful?

The important fact to note with life expectancy is that the rates can only be calculated for people that have fully lived out their lives. In this study, the average life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes was 66 years for men and 68 years for women, this means that the average person that death rates were recorded for would have been born before 1944.

Diabetic treatment and standards of diabetes control have noticeably improved within the last 3 decades and therefore it is not unrealistic to expect to see life expectancy rates continuing to gradually rise over the next few decades.

The growing evidence that life expectancy with type 1 diabetes is rising is positive, both on a personal and family level and could also lead to improved premiums and access to life insurance premiums.