Background Diabetes related complications are associated with poorer health and reduced quality of life. In Ireland, the prevalence of complications has been based on administrative and regional data; information on the national prevalence is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of diabetes and its related complications in a nationally representative sample of older adults in Ireland.
Methods Cross-sectional analysis of a population-based sample of adults aged 50 years or over who participated in the first wave of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, (2009–2011). Data from a computer-assisted personal interview were analysed. Self-report of doctor diagnosed diabetes was used to determine overall prevalence and age of diagnosis to estimate years since diagnosis. Micro vascular complications were defined as a self-reported doctor-diagnosis of leg ulcer, proteinuria, neuropathy, retinopathy or kidney damage. Macro vascular complications were defined as previous myocardial infarction, congestive cardiac failure, cerebrovascular accident or transient ischaemic attack. Analysis was carried out in Stata 12 using the survey function; weights were based on 2011 census figures. The chi-squared test assessed gender-specific differences in prevalence. Multivariate logistic regression was used to develop an explanatory model for the presence of either micro or macro vascular complications. The level of statistical significance was 0.05.
Results Data from 8175 participants were available for analysis. 634 individuals self-reported a diagnosis of diabetes. The overall weighted prevalence of doctor diagnosed type 2 diabetes was 8.0% (95% CI: 7.4%–8.6%) and was higher among men (9.6% males [8.6%–10.6%] versus 6.5% females [5.9%–7.5%]; p ≤ 0.001). The median duration since diagnosis was 5 years (IQR 3–10 years). Nearly one third were diagnosed between the ages of 50–59 years (32.2% [28.1%–36.2%]). Among participants with type 2 diabetes, the overall prevalence of micro vascular complications was 26.1% (22.4%–30.1%) with no evidence of gender-specific differences (p = 0.6). The prevalence for each micro vascular complication was: leg ulcers 4.1% (2.7%–6.2%); proteinuria 6.5% (4.7%–9.0%); neuropathy 14.5% (11.7%–17.9%); retinopathy 8.4% (6.4%–11.1%); kidney damage 5% (3.4%–7.5%). Overall, the prevalence of reported diagnosed macro vascular conditions was 15.2% (12.3%–18.6%) and was higher among men (18.2% males [12.3%–18.6%] vs. 11.1% females [7.5%–16.2%]; p ≤ 0.001).
Conclusion Diabetes is a common condition among older people in Ireland with a high burden of micro and macro vascular complications. Diabetes prevalence is projected to increase; therefore effective prevention strategies are urgently needed to reduce the burden of complications.