Type 2 diabetes diagnosis at 30 may reduce life expectancy by 14 years: Lancet study

The study found that most of the reduced life expectancy was due to vascular deaths, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Representative image of a blood glucose measurement being performed (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Representative image of a blood glucose measurement being performed (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)


People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 30 could see their life expectancy fall by as much as 14 years, according to a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The analysis of data from 19 high-income countries found that even people who do develop the condition at the age of 50 could see their life expectancy fall by up to six years.

The findings highlight the urgent need to develop and implement interventions that prevent or delay onset of diabetes, especially as the prevalence of diabetes among younger adults is rising globally, the researchers said.

Increasing levels of obesity, poor diet and increased sedentary behaviour are driving a rapid rise in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide, they said.

In 2021, 537 million adults were estimated to have diabetes worldwide, with an increasing number diagnosed at younger ages.

Type 2 diabetes increases an individual’s risk of a range of complications including heart attack and stroke, kidney problems, and cancer.

Previous estimates have suggested that adults with type 2 diabetes die, on average, six years earlier than adults without diabetes. However, there is uncertainty about how this average reduction in life expectancy varies according to age at diagnosis.

A team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge and University of Glasgow, UK, examined data from two major international studies – the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration and UK Biobank – comprising a total of 1.5 million individuals.

The earlier an individual was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the greater the reduction in their life expectancy. Overall, every decade of earlier diagnosis of diabetes was associated with about four years of reduced life expectancy.

Using data from US population it was estimated that, individuals with type 2 diabetes diagnosed at ages 30, 40, and 50 years died on average about 14, 10, and 6 years earlier, respectively, than individuals without the condition.

These estimates were slightly higher in women (16, 11, and 7 years, respectively) than they were in men (14, 9, and 5 years, respectively), the researchers said.

The findings were broadly similar in analyses using EU data, with corresponding estimates being about 13, 9, or 5 years earlier death on average.

"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 have shown, this means they are at risk of a much shorter life expectancy than they would otherwise have," said Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio from the University of Cambridge.

"Type 2 diabetes can be prevented if those at greatest risk can be identified and offered support – whether that’s to make changes to their behaviour or to provide medication to lower their risk," said Stephen Kaptoge, also from Cambridge.

"But there are also structural changes that we as a society should be pursuing, including relating to food manufacturing, changes to the built environment to encourage more physical activity, and so on," Kaptoge said.

The researchers found that the majority of the reduction in life expectancy associated with diabetes was due to vascular deaths, including heart attack, stroke and aneurysms. Other complications such as cancer also contributed to lowering life expectancy, they added. 

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