Diabetes patients more likely to die with COVID-19 if they're male: studies

Men with diabetes are more likely to die with COVID-19 than women with diabetes, according to an updated analysis of multiple studies on the topic.

The new data, which was presented by a team of researchers from Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in Germany at this year’s annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, showed that associations with COVID-19-related death in people with diabetes were similar to those found in the population without diabetes.

“This new update to our systemic review and meta-analysis provides the best current evidence on associations between characteristics of individuals with diabetes and confirmed SARS-CoV-2 and their subsequent risk of COVID-19 related death and severity of COVID-19 disease,” the review’s authors wrote.

Men with diabetes were 39 per cent more likely to die with COVID-19 than women with diabetes, according to a review of 21 studies.

The updated analysis also showed that people over the age of 65 with diabetes were more than three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those under that age with diabetes, which was based on eight studies on the subject.

With each one-year increase in age, the relative risk for COVID-19-related death in people living with diabetes increased by five per cent, according to the findings.

In addition to sex and age, the review’s authors analyzed the risk of death from COVID-19 based on other characteristics, such as body weight and pre-existing conditions.

They found that people with obesity and diabetes had a 47 per cent increased risk of COVID-19-related death compared with people of normal weight with diabetes.

As with the general population without diabetes, the analysis also showed that people living with diabetes and pre-existing conditions had an increased risk of death from COVID-19 when compared to those living with diabetes who didn’t have any pre-existing conditions.

The studies showed there was a 39 per cent increased risk for those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease and a 23 per cent increased risk for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In terms of how different treatments for diabetes might affect COVID-19 outcomes, the review found that patients using insulin to control their diabetes were 79 per cent more likely to die with COVID-19 than non-insulin users. The authors suggested this was because the use of insulin usually indicates a more advanced course of diabetes.

Conversely, patients who used metformin (the “first line” therapy used in most Type 2 diabetes cases) were 37 per cent less likely to die with COVID-19 than those who didn’t use the treatment.

Finally, the updated review showed that chronic use of statins (drugs that lower cholesterol) was associated with a 75 per cent increased risk of COVID-19-related death for people with diabetes. This could be because the use of statins are an indicator for underlying cardiovascular disease, the authors noted.

“Male sex, older age, obesity and some pre-existing conditions, as well as the use of insulin and statins, most of which are potential indicators for a more progressive course of diabetes, were associated with increased risk of COVID-19 related death and severity in individuals with diabetes and SARS-CoV-2 infection, whereas metformin use was associated with a lower risk of death,” the authors summarized in their review.