STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to assess the level of mortality related to diabetes in France. In other countries, an underrecording of diabetes on the death certificates of diabetic patients has been reported. DESIGN AND SETTING--Estimated death rate of diabetic patients was calculated using (a) the actual number of death certificates where diabetes was registered either as an underlying or as a contributory cause of death, and (b) estimates of the prevalence of diabetes in the population, by sex and age group, from which expected numbers of diabetic deaths were determined. Standardised mortality ratios were calculated using 1988 French mortality statistics as reference. MAIN RESULTS--The estimated standardised mortality ratio for diabetic subjects, with diabetes registered as the underlying cause, was 0.36. This standardised mortality ratio increased to 0.92 if both the underlying and contributory causes were considered. The estimated death rate, by sex and age group, implies that diabetes has a protective effect between the ages of 45 and 64 years, particularly in men. CONCLUSIONS--Evidence suggests that diabetes is completely omitted on the death certificates of many diabetic subjects, especially for those between the ages of 45 and 64 years. Using mortality statistics underestimates the prevalence of diabetes and its effects on public health. The difference in diabetes mortality between countries will not be reliable until there is a better registration of the causes of death in diabetic patients, and contributory as well as the underlying cause are coded and published.
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