Life Expectancy Gap Persists for IBD Patients

Heidi Splete

November 13, 2020

Life expectancy increased for adults with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) over recent decades, but still remained lower than life expectancy for individuals without IBD, according to data from a retrospective cohort study using Canadian health databases.

"Management of IBD has improved through increased access to specialist care, biologic therapies, and a treat-to-target approach," wrote M. Ellen Kuenzig, PhD, of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and colleagues. However, "Most studies evaluating mortality were conducted before the biologic era, and none evaluated life expectancy or health-adjusted life expectancy," they said.

In a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers used Canadian databases to identify a study population of 32,818 people with IBD matched to 163,284 people without IBD in 1996 that increased to 83,672 people with IBD matched to 418,360 people without IBD in 2011.

Life Expectancy Increases, but With Caveats

Overall, life expectancy for IBD patients increased from 75.5 years to 78.4 years for women and from 72.2 years to 75.5 years for men between 1996 and 2011.

However, health-adjusted life expectancy, defined as the number of years a person is expected to live in full health, decreased by 3.9 years for men with IBD between 1996 and 2008, but did not change significantly for women with IBD, although the gap in health-adjusted life expectancy increased between women with IBD and women without IBD.

Both life expectancy and health-adjusted life expectancy remained consistently lower for individuals with IBD compared to those without IBD. Differences in life expectancy for women with and without IBD ranged from 6.6 to 8.1 years and from 5.0 to 6.1 years for men with and without IBD, depending on the year.

Differences in health-adjusted life expectancy ranged from 9.5 to 13.5 years in women with and without IBD, and from 2.6 years to 6.7 years in men with and without IBD depending on the year, the researchers said.

In addition, the researchers used the pain-attributed utility of the Health Utility Index (HUI) to calculate health-adjusted life expectancy with the effect of pain on health status. The health-adjusted life expectancy using HUI for pain was stable in women with IBD, but increased over time for women without IBD. This pattern was similar for individuals with Crohn's disease but stable for women with and without ulcerative colitis. In men, health-adjusted life expectancy using the pain-attributed utility of the HUI was stable for those with IBD, decreased in those with Crohn's disease, and increased among those with ulcerative colitis.

The study findings were limited by several factors including potential confounding by disease phenotype and severity, as well as lack of data on medication use for individuals younger than 65 years and limited data on confounders including smoking, ethnicity, and environmental factors, the researchers said.

In addition, "mortality may increase with disease duration, which would violate the assumption that age- and sex-specific mortality rates remain constant over a person's lifetime that is required when using lifetables," they said.

Future Research Should Pursue Effect of Pain

The results support the persistence of a gap in life expectancy between individuals with and without IBD and suggest the need for improving pain management in IBD patients, given the contribution of pain to reduced health-adjusted life expectancy, they concluded. Additional research is needed to determine the effect of comorbid conditions and medication use on the difference in life expectancy for those with and without IBD, they added.

The study was supported by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services (Canada). Lead author Kuenzig received a Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, and Crohn's and Colitis Canada. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Kuenzig ME et al. CMAJ. 2020 Nov 9. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190976.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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