Diabetes Deaths Drop Among Children

Diabetes death rates among children decreased in last 50 years but more needs to be done

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Even though diabetes is seen more in adults, it is still a common condition in children. Improved treatment has led to better survival rates among adults with diabetes. Has it done the same for children?

Diabetes-related death rates among children were much lower in recent years than they were in the late 1960s, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While this finding shows that fewer children with diabetes are dying, there is still much room for improvement.

"Seek treatment for your child's diabetes."

Previous research has shown that young diabetes patients are more likely to die from direct complications of diabetes like ketoacidosis (build-up of toxic acids caused by a lack of insulin) and hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar).

Fortunately, these causes of diabetes-related deaths can be prevented.

CDC researcher Sharon Saydah, PhD, and her colleagues found that the rate of diabetes-related deaths among children were 61 percent lower in 2008 to 2009 than in 1968 to 1969.

This decrease in children's diabetes death rates happened despite signs that rates of type 1 diabetes have increased in the last 3 decades.

According to an editorial about the CDC study, there are a number of possible reasons for this drop in diabetes-related deaths among young patients. These include:

  • improvements in diabetes care and treatment, such as better technology for tracking blood sugar and administering insulin
  • better awareness of diabetes symptoms, which may have led to earlier recognition and treatment of the disease
  • advances in education about diabetes and managing ketoacidosis

Results from the study showed that in 1968 to 1969, there were 2.69 deaths per million cases of diabetes among children 19 years of age or younger. In 2008 to 2009, that rate dropped to 1.05 per million cases.

The decrease in diabetes-related death rates was even greater among children under 10 years of age. While death rates among 10- to 19-year-old patients dropped by 52 percent, death rates decreased by 78 percent among patients under 10 years of age.

The patterns of these decreases were not the same throughout all the years between the 1960s and the 2000s.

From 1968 to 1995, diabetes-related death rates among patients under 10 years dropped by about 5.7 percent a year. However, from 1995 to 2009, death rates decreased by only 0.3 percent per year.

Among patients between 10 and 19 years of age, diabetes-related death rates dropped by 6.5 percent a year between 1968 and 1984. But between 1984 and 2009, death rates increased by 1.6 percent a year in this age group.

It is not entirely clear why diabetes-related death rates among 10- to 19-year-old patients increased during this time period. "One possibility is that youths who had diabetes diagnosed before age 10 years and who previously might have died before reaching age 10 years are living longer and dying at ages 10 to 19 years," said the authors of the editorial.

More research is needed to better understand the recent increase in diabetes-related deaths among patients between 10 and 19 years of age, said Dr. Saydah and colleagues.

"These findings demonstrate improvements in diabetes [death rates] among youths but also indicate a need for continued improvement in diabetes diagnosis and care," the authors concluded.

For their study, the CDC researchers looked at data from the National Vital Statistics System for deaths in the United States with diabetes listed as the underlying cause of death.

The research was supported by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Results from the study can be found at the CDC's website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 12, 2012
Last Updated:
November 14, 2012