An Australian study has revealed new figures for life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes.
The findings, published in the journal Diabetologia, report that life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes is 12.2 years lower that the general population, on average.
However, the results should be met with caution. The study was conducted between 1997 and 2010 and reveals more about the past than the present, especially as there have been large improvements in diabetes treatments in recent decades.
Researchers from Melbourne and Beijing analysed 5,981 deaths within the study period and concluded that people with type 1 diabetes who died had a life expectancy of 68.6 years.
When compared to the general population, people with type 1 diabetes had a 12.2 years lower life expectancy. Women with type 1 had a lower life expectancy of 12.5; this figure was 11.6 for men.
The figures show that someone with type 1 diabetes who had this average life expectancy would have been born during 1928-1941, a period when type 1 diabetes treatments were at an early stage.
The year of diagnosis was not included in the analysis, but it is likely that many people with type 1 diabetes treated their condition with lesser standards of care for most of their lives.
It was only in the 1990s when blood glucose test strips became widely available for people with type 1 diabetes and patients were advised to aim for HbA1c targets. Prior to this time, people used urine testing to monitor glucose levels, and there was no access to modern rapid-acting insulin, insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).
It is likely that the majority of people included in these life expectancy figures were living with higher blood sugar levels than recommended in modern times, increasing the risk of diabetic complications such as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Therefore, it is not surprising that life expectancy figures are lower for the people analysed within the study.
Because life expectancy figures can only be calculated once people die, life expectancy figures for people born in more recent decades can only be hypothesised.
However, there has been a large leap in improvement in standards of type 1 diabetes care since the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial in 1993. Last year, a separate Australian study revealed that the life expectancy of people with type 1 diabetes has improved significantly in recent yearsblood glucose levels.

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