Almost one in three people who have died in hospital in England after testing positive for Covid-19 also had diabetes, according to new NHS research.
People with type 1 diabetes were found to be three-and-a-half times more at risk of dying from Covid-19 than those without the condition, while people with type 2 are at twice the risk.
“This new data sheds much-needed light on which groups of people with diabetes are more likely to experience poor outcomes”
The research showed that 7,466 people in England who died after contracting the virus up until 17 May had type 2 diabetes and 365 people had type 1 diabetes.
The overall death rate for people with diabetes doubled during the early stage of the pandemic.
Researchers concluded that the risk to people with diabetes from Covid-19 was similar to the risk of death they had for other infectious conditions, such as pneumonia.
They found that age was the biggest risk factor for death among people with both forms of diabetes who contracted Covid-19, with the vast majority of deaths occuring in those over the age of 40.
The study also showed that in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, even when all other known factors are taken into account, higher blood glucose levels and obesity were linked to higher risk.
The risk was also more pronounced for men, people of black or Asian ethnicity, and those in more deprived communities, as well as those with pre-existing kidney disease, heart failure and previous stroke, regardless of the type of diabetes they had.
As a result of these findings, NHS England has collaborated with Diabetes UK and other organisations to create a dedicated helpline.
Callers can receive advice on their condition and their insulin management.
“It also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes”
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, and lead author of the research, 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.”
While this news is “worrying”, Prof Valabhji explained that extra measures such as the phone line, online sites and digital consultations had been put in place to better protect people with diabetes.
Bridget Turner, director of policy at Diabetes UK, said: “This new data sheds much-needed light on which groups of people with diabetes are more likely to experience poor outcomes if they catch coronavirus.
“It’s consistent with what we know about the impact of coronavirus on the general population; that poorer outcomes are very strongly linked to older age.
“The numbers of people with all types of diabetes dying in hospital from coronavirus under the age of 40 were incredibly small, suggesting the risk for younger people is considerably lower.
“It also shows that the risk of death for people with diabetes is higher than for people without the condition – with the risk for people with type 1 being higher than for those with type 2 – and that a history of higher blood sugar levels as well as obesity seem to be contributing factors.”