Diabetes and the risk of multi-system aging phenotypes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4144. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004144. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Background: Observational studies suggested an association between diabetes and the risk of various geriatric conditions (i.e., cognitive impairment, dementia, depression, mobility impairment, disability, falls, and urinary incontinence). However, the magnitude and impact of diabetes on older adults have not been reviewed.

Methodology/principal findings: MEDLINE and PSYCINFO databases were searched through November 2007 for published studies, supplemented by manual searches of bibliographies of key articles. Population-based, prospective cohort studies that reported risk of geriatric outcomes in relation to diabetes status at baseline were selected. Two authors independently extracted the data, including study population and follow-up duration, ascertainment of diabetes status at baseline, outcomes of interest and their ascertainment, adjusted covariates, measures of association, and brief results. Fifteen studies examined the association of DM with cognitive dysfunction. DM was associated with a faster decline in cognitive function among older adults. The pooled adjusted risk ratio (RR) for all dementia when persons with DM were compared to those without was 1.47 (95% CI, 1.25 to 1.73). Summary RRs for Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia comparing persons with DM to those without were 1.39 (CI, 1.16 to 1.66) and 2.38 (CI, 1.79 to 3.18), respectively. Four of 5 studies found significant association of DM with faster mobility decline and incident disability. Two studies examined the association of diabetes with falls in older women. Both found statistically significant associations. Insulin users had higher RR for recurrent falls. One study for urinary incontinence in older women found statistically significant associations. Two studies for depression did not suggest that DM was an independent predictor of incident depression.

Conclusions/significance: Current evidence supports that DM is associated with increased risk for selected geriatric conditions. Clinicians should increase their awareness and provide appropriate care. Future research is required to elucidate the underlying pathological pathway.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Phenotype*
  • Risk Factors