Diabetes Affecting Mortality Rates More in Younger Adults

January 22, 2020

Older adults with diabetes are experiencing declines in all-cause mortality rates, whereas younger adults continue to be affected more by the condition.

Older adults with diabetes are experiencing declines in all-cause mortality rates, whereas young adults continue to be impacted more by the disease, according to a new study.1

The findings, published in Diabetologia, demonstrated secular trends in all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates in individuals with diabetes in Hong Kong from 2001 through 2016. Researchers used the Hong Kong Hospital Authority electronic medical record system to identify mortality patterns among patients with diabetes.

Over the 16-year period, a total of 390,071 men and 380,007 women aged 20 years and older with diabetes were identified. There were a total of 96,645 deaths among men and 88,436 deaths among women.

 Mortality rates for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer among those with diabetes declined by 52.3%, 72.2%, and 65.1% in men, respectively, and by 53.5%, 78.5%, and 59.6% in women, respectively, according to the study.

In 2016, men with diabetes were only 1.5 times, or 50%, more likely to die from any cause than those without diabetes, compared with an almost 3 times increased death rate in 2001, according to the study. Women with diabetes were 1.7 times, or 70%, more likely to die than woman without diabetes, compared with a 3.3 times increased death rate in 2001.

Despite overall death rates being much lower in younger adults, the study showed that the differences in death rates between young adults with and without diabetes were much larger than in older adults in 2001, and remained so in 2016.

In younger adults with diabetes, all-cause mortality rates declined by 33.8% for men and 6.9% for women from 2001 to 2016; however, the researchers noted that this was not statistically significant.

Older adults saw greater improvement. In those with diabetes aged 45 to 75 years old, the all-cause mortality declined by 58.9% for men and 63.6% for women, according to the study.

“The less marked improvements in all-cause mortality rates among young people in Hong Kong and in other regions is concerning since these individuals are at the prime age of economic productivity and the high rates of premature mortality are expected to have a major impact on society,” the researchers wrote.2

Although the findings represent the Hong Kong population, the rising diabetes burden is a worldwide concern. In the United States, prediabetes is on the rise among US teens and young adults, leading to increased risks of diabetes and related complications in younger adults. Pharmacists can be a helpful source for educating the public and participating in programs that screen, test, and refer patients, while promoting lifestyle changes that can curb the risk.