Impact of diabetes on life and healthy life expectancy among older women

Befikadu L. Wubishet*, Julie E. Byles, Melissa L. Harris, Carol Jagger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Diabetes is a major chronic condition with ever-increasing health and economic burden. This study aimed to measure the impact of diabetes on total life expectancy (TLE) and healthy life expectancy (HLE) at ages 70 and 80 and to assess how educational level, obesity, and comorbidity affected the expectancies.

Methods: The study involved 9849 population-representative women born between 1921 and 1926 from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH). Self-rated health was obtained from the ALSWH surveys. Diabetes diagnosis was ascertained using survey and health care administrative data. Total life expectancy and HLE were estimated for women with and without diabetes using multistate modeling.

Results: Diabetes was associated with an increased risk of poor health (adjusted risk ratio: 1.63, 95% confidence interval: 1.49-1.79). Diabetes was also associated with a reduction of 0.9 years in HLE and 2.6 years in TLE at age 70 and 0.4 years in HLE and 1.3 years in TLE at age 80. If a woman had low education, obesity, and more than 2 comorbidities in addition to diabetes, these reductions increased to 3.0 years in TLE and 7.9 years in HLE at age 70 and 1.5 years in TLE and 3.8 years in HLE at age 80.

Conclusions: Diabetes substantially reduced older women's quantity and quality of life, with further reductions for those with lower education, obesity, and comorbidities. These findings underscore the importance of optimally managing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and delaying the onset of comorbidities, to promote healthy aging for older women with diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-921
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Healthy aging
  • IMaCh
  • Longitudinal study


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