By Jenny Hope
Having diabetes in middle age will cut your life short by an average of six years, say researchers.
For the first time, a study has calculated the reduction in life expectancy from having type 2 diabetes, the kind linked to being overweight in middle age.
Diabetes is known to double the risk of heart attacks and strokes, but the new findings show people with type 2 diabetes are also at greater risk of dying from cancer, infection and mental disorders.
Deadly condition: People who develop diabetes in middle age are far more likely to develop other life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks and strokes
More than 2.5million Britons have diabetes, with 800,000 being unaware of the condition.
Scientists from the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration – co-ordinated by the University of Cambridge – analysed data on 820,900 people, each of whom was monitored for about a decade.
Even after accounting for other risk factors such as age, sex, obesity and smoking, the researchers found people with diabetes were at increased risk of death from several common cancers, infections, mental disorders, and liver, digestive, kidney and lung diseases.
About 60 per cent of the reduced life expectancy in people with diabetes is attributable to blood vessel diseases – such as heart attacks and strokes. Only a small part of these associations are explained by obesity, blood pressure, or high levels of fat in the blood – conditions which often co-exist with diabetes.
The study, involving more than 250 scientists from 25 countries, also suggests people with diabetes may be at increased risk of death from intentional self-harm – a finding which the scientists say requires further study, including investigation of a possible link between diabetes and depression. It was funded by the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation and Pfizer, and is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researcher Naveed Sattar, of the University of Glasgow, said: ‘The findings not only show the extensive range of complications linked to diabetes, but also the importance of raised sugar levels, as opposed to cholesterol and blood pressure to such complications.