Almost a third of Covid-19 deaths in England have been associated with diabetes, NHS finds
Denis Campbell Health policy editor – The Guardian
People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to die of Covid-19 than those with type 2, according to NHS research confirming that diabetes significantly increases coronavirus sufferers’ risk of dying.
Almost one in three of all deaths from coronavirus among people in hospital in England during the pandemic have been associated with diabetes, according to the study.
People with type 1 diabetes – the autoimmune form of the disease – are three-and-a-half times more likely to die if they catch Covid-19 than non-diabetics, while type 2 diabetics – those with the form closely linked to being overweight – are twice as likely to die as non-diabetics. Nine out of 10 diabetics have type 2, and many are obese.
Age, however, is the biggest determining risk factor for death among those with either form of diabetes who get Covid-19. Under-40s have a very low risk compared with those over 40, and especially compared with older people, according to new findings collated by NHS England. People with type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in childhood, tend to be younger than those with type 2.
Last week, separate findings suggested that a quarter of coronavirus-related deaths were among people with diabetes. The findings have not yet been subjected to peer review but will soon be published in a leading medical journal.
So far during the pandemic, 7,466 people who died in hospital in England had type 2 diabetes and 365 had type 1.
Prof Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England’s national clinical director for diabetes and obesity and the study’s lead author, said: “This research shows the extent of the risk of coronavirus for people with diabetes and the different risks for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Importantly, it also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes.”
Jon Cohen, emeritus professor of infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex medical school, said: “Bacterial infections are more common and more severe in diabetes. This has generally not been thought to be such a problem with viral infections such as coronavirus, but any severe infection can cause problems with insulin control so this too will likely contribute to the increased mortality rate in type 1 patients.
“So diabetic patients are probably not at greater risk of catching coronavirus, but do have a greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they do catch it.”
The study also found that the overall death rate for people with diabetes doubled in the early stages of the pandemic. Among both type 1 and type 2 patients, men, BAME people and those living in more deprived communities were at higher risk. In both types of sufferer, those with underlying kidney disease or heart failure and/or who previously had a stroke, were also at higher risk.
- This article was amended on 20 May 2020 to amend references to diabetes that did not adhere to house style guidelines.