Sex, socioeconomic status and locality, key factors in diabetes deaths

Death rates from diabetes-related causes increase dramatically with increasing socioeconomic disadvantage and distance from major cities, and men are more likely than women to die from diabetes or related causes, says a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The new report, Diabetes-related deaths in Australia 2001-2003, uses death certificate data to analyse mortality rates from diabetes in Australia.

Over the period 2001-2003 there were nearly 21,000 diabetes-related deaths registered for people aged 25 years and over in Australia, representing 5.4% of registered deaths in that period. Diabetes was recorded as the primary or underlying cause of death in nearly 9,800 of those cases.

Author Kathryn Webbie said the study defined 'diabetes-related deaths' as deaths in which diabetes was either the underlying (primary) cause or an associated (contributory) cause, when the reason of death was a commonly recognised complication of diabetes.

The average annual diabetes-related death rate for people aged 25 years or over was around 68 deaths per 100,000 people for men, and about 41 per 100,000 for women. The difference was due to much higher death rates for men in the younger age groups up to 75 years of age.

The report also found that socioeconomic status and geography play key roles in diabetes mortality.

Death rates from diabetes-related causes increase dramatically with increasing socioeconomic disadvantage.

'This reflects a higher prevalence of diabetes and related diseases, particularly diseases of the circulatory system, in the more socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.

'We also know that the prevalence of related risk factors, such as smoking, being obese and having lower levels of physical activity tends to be higher among people living in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia,' Ms Webbie said.

The rate of diabetes-related deaths was also found to be markedly higher in remote areas than in major cities and inner regional areas.

'One factor that contributes to regional differences in death rates from diabetes is the higher proportion of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas.

'We found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than other Australians to die as a result of their diabetes or from other conditions, such as heart attack, stroke or kidney disease, where diabetes is known to be a contributing factor,' she said.

13 December 2005

Further information: Kathryn Webbie AIHW, tel 02 6244 1049, or 0407 915 851, or Anne-Marie Waters AIHW, tel 02 9382 1049.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.