Risks and burdens of incident diabetes in long COVID: a cohort study

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2022 May;10(5):311-321. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(22)00044-4. Epub 2022 Mar 21.


Background: There is growing evidence suggesting that beyond the acute phase of SARS-CoV-2 infection, people with COVID-19 could experience a wide range of post-acute sequelae, including diabetes. However, the risks and burdens of diabetes in the post-acute phase of the disease have not yet been comprehensively characterised. To address this knowledge gap, we aimed to examine the post-acute risk and burden of incident diabetes in people who survived the first 30 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Methods: In this cohort study, we used the national databases of the US Department of Veterans Affairs to build a cohort of 181 280 participants who had a positive COVID-19 test between March 1, 2020, and Sept 30, 2021, and survived the first 30 days of COVID-19; a contemporary control (n=4 118 441) that enrolled participants between March 1, 2020, and Sept 30, 2021; and a historical control (n=4 286 911) that enrolled participants between March 1, 2018, and Sept 30, 2019. Both control groups had no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Participants in all three comparison groups were free of diabetes before cohort entry and were followed up for a median of 352 days (IQR 245-406). We used inverse probability weighted survival analyses, including predefined and algorithmically selected high dimensional variables, to estimate post-acute COVID-19 risks of incident diabetes, antihyperglycaemic use, and a composite of the two outcomes. We reported two measures of risk: hazard ratio (HR) and burden per 1000 people at 12 months.

Findings: In the post-acute phase of the disease, compared with the contemporary control group, people with COVID-19 exhibited an increased risk (HR 1·40, 95% CI 1·36-1·44) and excess burden (13·46, 95% CI 12·11-14·84, per 1000 people at 12 months) of incident diabetes; and an increased risk (1·85, 1·78-1·92) and excess burden (12·35, 11·36-13·38) of incident antihyperglycaemic use. Additionally, analyses to estimate the risk of a composite endpoint of incident diabetes or antihyperglycaemic use yielded a HR of 1·46 (95% CI 1·43-1·50) and an excess burden of 18·03 (95% CI 16·59-19·51) per 1000 people at 12 months. Risks and burdens of post-acute outcomes increased in a graded fashion according to the severity of the acute phase of COVID-19 (whether patients were non-hospitalised, hospitalised, or admitted to intensive care). All the results were consistent in analyses using the historical control as the reference category.

Interpretation: In the post-acute phase, we report increased risks and 12-month burdens of incident diabetes and antihyperglycaemic use in people with COVID-19 compared with a contemporary control group of people who were enrolled during the same period and had not contracted SARS-CoV-2, and a historical control group from a pre-pandemic era. Post-acute COVID-19 care should involve identification and management of diabetes.

Funding: US Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Society of Nephrology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents