An early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of a much shorter life expectancy, a new study has shown.
People diagnosed with the condition in their thirties have been found to have an average life expectancy of 14 years less than those without a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Researchers believe that an earlier diagnosis results in more damage accumulating in the body due to impaired metabolism, which can lead to heart and kidney problems, and an increase in some types of cancer.
The results are published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and highlight the importance of effectively managing the condition after early diagnosis to prevent long-term complications and premature death.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes amongst adults is rising globally and is linked to increased obesity levels, poor diet and increased sedentary behaviour. In 2021, 537 million adults were estimated to have diabetes worldwide, and there is an increase in the number of people diagnosed at a younger age. Having type 2 diabetes increases a person’s risk of heart attacks and strokes, kidney problems and cancer. Previous studies have shown that a type 2 diabetes diagnosis can decrease your life expectancy by six years, but it has been unclear how the diagnosis age affects life expectancy estimates.
To find out more, the researchers used data from two international studies, The Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration and the UK Biobank, which included over 1.5 million people from 19 high-income countries around the world.
The analysis showed that the earlier an individual was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the more significant the reduction in thier life expectancy. This was true for both men and women. Every decade of earlier diagnosis of diabetes was associated with about four years of reduced life expectancy.
Data from the American population in the data showed that a diagnosis at 30 years led to an average reduction in life expectancy of 14 years for men. Men diagnosed at 40 and 50 years of age would be expected to die an average of nine and five years sooner than those without type 2 diabetes. For women, the figures were slightly higher, with life expectancy reduced by 16, 11 and 7 years when diagnosed at 30, 40 and 50 years of age, respectively.
Extracting European data from the databases showed similar findings with an average of 13, nine and five years reduction in life expectancy on average for diagnoses at 30, 40 and 50 years of age, respectively.
Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio from the University of Cambridge said: ‘Type 2 diabetes used to be seen as a disease that affected older adults, but we’re increasingly seeing people diagnosed earlier in life. As we’ve shown, this means they are at risk of a much shorter life expectancy than they would otherwise have.’
Most of the reduction in life expectancy caused by type 2 diabetes was due to vascular deaths, including heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms. The researchers believe that prompt diagnosis and effective management of the condition could help prevent long-term complications from the condition. They stated that preventing or delaying the onset of the illness, given its impact on people’s lives, should be ‘an urgent priority’.
Professor Naveed Sattar from the University of Glasgow added: ‘Our findings support the idea that the younger an individual is when they develop type 2 diabetes, the more damage their body accumulates from its impaired metabolism. But the findings also suggest that early detection of diabetes by screening followed by intensive glucose management could help prevent long-term complications from the condition.’