Diabetes contributes to 9,500 deaths each year

Diabetes contributes to around 9,500 deaths in Australia each year, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Diabetes as a Cause of Death, Australia 1997 and 1998 shows that diabetes is twice as likely to be listed as an 'associated' cause rather than the 'underlying' cause of death on death certificates (5.2% compared with 2.2% of all deaths).

The report shows that Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to die from diabetes-related deaths (underlying or associated) as non-Indigenous Australians. This difference is substantially higher among the 35-44 age group, where the proportion of deaths among Indigenous Australians is six times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

Diabetes-related mortality in the most disadvantaged group of Australians was 38% higher than in the least disadvantaged group; for women in the most disadvantaged group, the proportion of diabetes-related deaths was 67% higher.

Diabetes-related mortality is higher in remote areas of Australia than in urban and rural areas, which is explained by the fact that Indigenous Australians account for two-thirds of diabetes-related deaths in remote areas.

Co-author of the report, Sushma Mathur, said when diabetes is listed as a cause of death on death certificates, diseases of the circulatory and genito-urinary systems are also commonly listed. Among Indigenous Australians this association is even stronger than for other Australians.

'This strong association is not surprising given that Type 2 diabetes shares several risk factors with diseases of the circulatory system (for example obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition in foetal and early infant life),' Ms Mathur said.

'Diabetes is itself a risk factor for diseases of the circulatory system and it is known to enhance the effects of other risk factors such as hypertension and smoking.'

Other findings in the report include:

  • Diabetes-related mortality is substantially higher among older Australians, and given the growing number of elderly Australians this mortality burden is expected to become more pronounced over the next few decades.
  • Among the States and Territories, diabetes-related mortality is highest in the Northern Territory (explained by a higher concentration of Indigenous Australians) and lowest in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • In Australia, males are 1.6 times as likely as females to die from diabetes-related deaths.


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