Having children lowers the risk of death in people with type 1 diabetes, but for women more than men, researchers in Finland have found.
The team, led by Dr Lena Sjoberg, of the University of Helsinki and National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, conducted a study to examine mortality and causes of death among patients with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes compared to those without the disease, with a particular focus on mortality differences between parents and people without kids.
The researchers analysed and compared data from nearly 5,200 people in Finland who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17 or younger between 1965 and 1979 with a control group of twice as many people without diabetes. During the follow-up until the end of 2010, 1,025 people with type 1 diabetes and 497 non-diabetics in the control group died.
Compared with men and women in the control group, death from all causes was three times higher among men with diabetes and nearly five times greater among women with the disease.
Overall, mortality is much higher in men than in women. However, for people with diabetes the mortality differences between men and women were less pronounced than among the controls, the researchers found.
After looking at the effect of having offspring, they also discovered that in general, the more children a person had, the lower their risk of death, but this trend was less pronounced for men than for women. All-cause mortality was 50% lower in people who had children, among both diabetics and controls, and in both genders.
In a news release, Dr. Sjoberg said: “The beneficial effect of having offspring on mortality was observed. It was, however, significantly smaller among men with diabetes than among men in the control group.
“In women, having offspring was associated with lower mortality in a similar way regardless of the diabetes status. One possible reason for this gender difference is that women with type 1 diabetes are trained and well motivated to achieve better metabolic control during pregnancy and that this motivation may persist also post partum.”
The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Barcelona, Spain.

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