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.