The Daily Mail this morning reported the results of a study from the Lancet under the headline ‘Women with type 1 diabetes are 40 per cent more likely early to die than men with the disease’.
Yet as many people rightly pointed out in the article comments, this headline is somewhat misleading. It could lead people to think that women with type 1 diabetes more often die much younger than men with the condition. This is not the case.
It’s well-known that, on average, women live longer than men. However, in people who have type 1, both men and women have similar lifespans. This means that the effect of type 1 diabetes on lifespan is more pronounced in women than in men – this is where the Mail’s 40 per cent statistic comes from. The effect on women is 40 per cent bigger than the effect on men, which amounts to both men and women living a similar amount of time.
The same is true for the other statistics – women tend have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke than men, so if type 1 puts both genders at a similar level, then the effect of having the condition is much bigger for women. They are not, as the Mail suggests, 37 per cent more likely to die of a stroke than men; it is that the effect for women is 37 per cent greater.
In addition, the overall effect of type 1 diabetes upon mortality is getting less and less every year. Last month, we reported a study that showed that people with type 1 are living longer than ever before, and we are funding numerous projects such as AdDIT to combat the threat of complications.
Despite this, both the Mail article and the Lancet study highlight an important point – women with type 1 are being more strongly affected by the condition than men, and we need to address this discrepancy. Studies have found that women have slightly higher HbA1c levels over their lifetimes, and as long-term hyperglycaemia raises the risk of complications, this could contribute to the difference.
Better treatments to support glucose management – including smart insulins and the artificial pancreas – would go a long way towards reducing the impact of type 1 on everyone.
Sarah Johnson, Director of Policy and Communications at JDRF, said: ‘We know that research has shown young girls and women with the condition are more likely to have poorer blood glucose control than their male counterparts. Whatever the reasons are behind that, what’s certain is that every single early death linked to type 1 diabetes is unacceptable.’
She added: 'One day, the cure will be found. To get there, we need research to be better supported.'