Diabetes diseases cause far more deaths than previously thought

The number of deaths from diabetes is higher than expected

Apparently, the fatal effects of diabetes have been underestimated. A new investigation into the number of deaths in Germany has now shown that people with diabetes are up to 2.6 times more likely to die than people without diabetes.

In their investigation, the scientists from the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) found that the mortality due to diabetes is much higher than previously thought. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Diabetes Care".

Diabetes deaths have doubled in ten years

The current study on the number of deaths in Germany that can be attributed to diabetes showed higher death rates than previously assumed. The number of diabetes-related deaths doubled between 1990 and 2010, the experts say. In 2013 alone, around 5.1 million people worldwide and around 620,000 people in Europe died from diabetes or from diabetes-related complications. In other words, life expectancy for people with diabetes is on average about five to six years shorter compared to people of the same age without such a disease. People aged 70 to 89 are the most affected. In addition, men seem to be particularly at risk. Statistically speaking, sick men die ten years earlier compared to women with diabetes.

The data used in the study include approximately 90 percent of the German population

So far, diabetes-related mortality in Germany has been calculated based on estimates from regionally limited cohort studies and surveys, the authors explain. However, only a few people with diabetes were examined in these, the researchers add. The doctors evaluated the routine data of the statutory health insurance (GKV) in order to calculate the increased mortality from diabetes. "This data gives us new opportunities to carry out epidemiological and supply-related studies for the whole of Germany," explains study author PD Dr. Wolfgang Rathmann, Deputy Director of the Institute for Biometry and Epidemiology at the German Diabetes Center and member of the Research Coordination Board of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) in a press release. The data used include approximately 90 percent of the German population.

Data from Denmark were included

Due to the lack of reliable estimates of mortality in people with and without diabetes, the age- and gender-specific relative mortality from Denmark was included in the calculation, explain the DDZ scientists. Denmark and Germany have a comparable health system and the prevalence of diabetes is also comparable. With the help of the so-called age pyramid and the mortality table for Germany from the Federal Statistical Office in 2010, the age and gender-specific so-called excess deaths were calculated.

21 percent of all deaths in Germany in 2010 were due to diabetes

The calculations carried out by the experts showed that a total of 175,000 deaths (type 2 diabetes: 137,950 deaths) could have been prevented in 2010 alone if the mortality rate for people with diabetes was as high as for people without diabetes . In other words, in 2010 alone, around 21 percent of all deaths in Germany were due to diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has been linked to 16 percent of all deaths.

More research is needed

The results of the study show that the official statistics on causes of death in Germany in 2010 do not reflect the real number of people who have died from diabetes and related complications. Internationally, a positive trend can be observed in the mortality rate of people with diabetes. Mortality rates have been falling for more than 20 years. This is partly due to improved care for people with diabetes and improved prevention and treatment of complications caused by diabetes. Future studies must now determine whether these positive trends can also be observed in Germany. (as)

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