Less Life Free of Diabetes

Diabetes-free life expectancy drastically decreases among obese people

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

(RxWiki News) Americans are living longer than ever before. But does this longer life expectancy mean that people are living healthier, or are they living longer through periods of sickness?

Men and women in the United States are living fewer years without diabetes than they were in the 1980s. Researchers say the decrease in diabetes-free life expectancy is almost entirely due to the increasing rates of diabetes among obese people.

"Control your weight and spend more of your life without diabetes."

Solveig A. Cunningham, Ph.D., of the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory University, and colleagues set out to see if the growing life expectancy in the United States means that people are enjoying longer, healthier lives, or if they living through drawn out periods of diabetes.

Even though the life expectancy for men and women at age 18 went up between the 1980s and 2000s, the diabetes-free life expectancy decreased. Among men, life expectancy without diabetes decreased by 1.7 years. For women, diabetes-free life expectancy was cut by 1.5 years.

The number of 18-year-old women who would go on to develop diabetes later in life increased by nearly 50 percent between the 1980s and 2000s. The amount of men who would develop diabetes almost doubled.

The most drastic drop in diabetes-free life expectancy was among people who were obese. Women lost an estimated 2.5 years without diabetes, while men lost 5.6 years.

"Just goes to show you can have diabetes and be the healthiest person on the block," says Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, author and illustrator of Your First Year with Diabetes and DIABETease, a lighter look at the serious subject of diabetes. "If you have diabetes, and learn the self-care behavior skills from a diabetes educator, you can live a longer more healthful life. This study finding is not a surprise. Within 9 years, over half of all adults in the U.S. will have prediabetes or diabetes. That's right, those who don't will be in the minority."

For their study, Dr. Cunningham and colleagues looked at nationally representative data and estimated changes in diabetes-free life expectancy. The full results of their research are published in Diabetes Care.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 27, 2011
Last Updated:
October 1, 2011