Diabetes Among Older Adults Imposed An Estimated $133.5 Billion Cost in 1990's
Sick days, disability, early retirement, and premature death of
diabetic Americans born between 1931 and 1941 cost the country almost
$133.5 billion by the year 2000, according to a new estimate by
researchers with the University of Michigan (U-M) and the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA). This analysis is the first to identify
the staggering financial impact of diabetes on the economy using
a single, consistent source of data the Health and Retirement
Study (HRS), a national longitudinal study funded by the National
Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
"This study is a stark reminder of the huge financial burden
diabetes places on patients, their families, and society,"
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "Diabetes
remains a serious and growing health threat, but there are simple
steps we can all take, such as eating wisely and staying active,
that can reduce the toll that diabetes takes on our lives."
"Understanding the economic impact of diabetes allows a more
complete understanding of the cost-effectiveness of diabetes treatment
programs and may provide a rationale for employers to begin to address
workplace programs to improve health," according to the study
by Sandeep Vijan, M.D., M.S., and colleagues.*
The study, published in the December 2004 issue of Health Services
Research, was funded by the Social Security Administration.
Additional support for the researchers came from the NIA, the VA,
and the Alzheimer's Association.
For the study, Vijan and U-M co-authors Rodney A. Hayward, M.D.,
and Kenneth M. Langa, M.D., Ph.D., looked at diabetes-associated
mortality, disability, early retirement, and work absenteeism among
a national household sample of older adults interviewed over an
8-year period as part of the HRS. Since 1992, HRS has conducted interviews
every 2 years with a nationally representative sample of 22,000
Americans age 50 and older to assess major trends in health and
Between 1992 and 2000, the average person with diabetes lost $2,800
in wages due to early retirement, $630 due to sick days, and $22,100
due to disability. When these results were extended to all people
with diabetes born between 1931 and 1941 2.3 million people
the total economic losses were $58.6 billion. The study also found
that $60 billion in productivity losses occurred prior to 1992 in
this group, suggesting a total productivity loss due to diabetes
of nearly $120 billion.
Researchers excluded people who were already disabled at the start
of the study due to diabetes. When the cost of the already disabled
was added, the economic toll of the disease mounted to $133.5 billion
over the entire lifetime of this group.
Since the analysis was limited to a narrow age group Americans
born between 1931 and 1941 the total cost of lost productivity
due to diabetes for all ages is much greater, the researchers note.
"This study makes excellent use of the longitudinal design
of the HRS, one of the few studies that measures both health and
economic factors in the same study, to demonstrate the huge negative
economic impact that diabetes has on our society beyond the personal
costs of illness and premature death," said Richard M. Suzman,
Ph.D., NIA Associate Director for the Behavioral and Social Research
Program. Other studies funded by NIA have shown that diabetes multiplies
the cost of treating other diseases, he said.
The researchers note that improving health behaviors can prevent
diabetes, and improving treatment can prevent many diabetes complications
that are responsible for the huge losses in productivity. NIH and
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance,
have joined forces on the National Diabetes Education Program, a
federally funded program that includes over 200 partners at the
federal, state, and local levels, working together to reduce the
morbidity and mortality associated with diabetes (http://www.ndep.nih.gov/).
About 18.2 million Americans are estimated to have diabetes. With
the aging of the population and the dramatic increase in obesity
and sedentary lifestyles even among the young, the prevalence of diabetes is increasing at an epidemic rate. The
CDC recently estimated that if current trends continue, one in three
people born today will develop the disease. People with
diabetes tend to be male, African American or Hispanic, and less
educated, according to the new study.
NIA research addresses issues affecting the health and well-being
of older people and their families. More information on aging and
health, including a new AgePage on diabetes can be found on the
NIA's web site www.nia.nih.gov
or by calling 1-800-222-2225. The National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), also part of the NIH,
conducts research on diabetes and provides information to the public
and to patients on the disease. For more information, please visit
the NIDDK website at www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov.
To interview Dr. Vijan, the principal investigator, please call
To interview Dr. Suzman, NIA, please call 301-496-1752.
* Vijan, Hayward, and Langa are with the Veterans
Affairs Center for Practice Management & Outcomes Research, Ann Arbor,
MI, and the Department of Internal Medicine. Vijan and Hayward are
also with the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center, and
Langa, funded by the NIA, is with the Institute for Social Research,
University of Michigan.