Objective.

To determine whether the risk of death from type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) was similar among young non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic patients.

Design.

Retrospective study of death certificates for Chicago residents between 1 and 24 years of age with any mention of diabetes during 1987 through 1994. Prevalence was estimated by an ongoing incidence registry in the city, the 1990 US Census, and published studies. Autopsy reports and/or medical records were examined to determine more clearly the circumstances of death. Case-fatality rates for IDDM in non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic patients were calculated. Deaths in those with diabetes were compared with the mortality experience of the underlying population using race-specific standardized mortality ratios.

Results.

A total of 30 diabetes-related deaths occurred in the 8-year interval: 23 among non-Hispanic black, 5 among Hispanic, and 2 among non-Hispanic white paients. The average annual case-fatality rate for all ethnic groups combined was 247.2/105 (95% CI: 166.9–353.5). Race-specific rates were 447.8/105(283.9–671.7) for non-Hispanic black patients, 175.6/105(56.9–409.2) for Hispanic patients, and 48.2/105(5.8–174.0) for non-Hispanic white patients; there were no gender differences in risk. A total of 8 individuals died at the onset of disease (7 non-Hispanic black patients and 1 Hispanic patient). Compared with the underlying population, ethnic-specific standardized mortality ratios were elevated significantly for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic patients but not for non-Hispanic white patients.

Conclusions.

Short-term mortality is elevated substantially among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic youth with IDDM. The ninefold greater risk of death for non-Hispanic black compared with non-Hispanic white youth with diabetes may indicate gaps in access to comprehensive diabetes care.

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