Image of a clinician advising a patient about diabetes care.

In counties directly impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, older adults with diabetes took a big hit to their health. According to an analysis of Medicare data, these individuals had a 40% greater one-month mortality rate than people who lived outside the affected areas.

That increased risk persisted up to ten years later, when the affected individuals had a 6% higher relative mortality rate.

The researchers could not identify specific factors that caused this difference in risk, wrote Troy Quast, Ph.D., University of South Florida. But he noted that after a disaster, people with diabetes may face disrupted access to health care providers, damaged or lost medications, and difficulty monitoring glucose levels. In fact, earlier research has shown that senior diabetics who were impacted by the storms were less likely to obtain routine tests and blood screens, and had higher hospitalization rates.

The study focused on more than 170,000 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65-99 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. An article was published in Diabetes Care.