New research points towards another risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Considered a type of lifestyle, what is it? Published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), scientists have noted a risk factor worth mentioning. They found that the “absence of quality connection with people predicts the onset of type 2 diabetes”. News Medical Life Sciences explored the concept of loneliness, describing it to occur when “social needs are not met”.
Loneliness is said to “reflect an imbalance between desired and actual social relationships”.
In the UK, “a fifth of adults report feeling lonely sometimes” – so how is it linked to type 2 diabetes?
The researchers based their conclusions on data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
The database contained information on 4,112 adults aged 50 and over, whereby the data was collected several times from 2002 to 2017.
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At the beginning of the data collection, all participants were free from diabetes and had normal blood sugar levels.
For clarity, Diabetes UK explained normal blood sugar levels are below 5.5mmol/l when fasting.
Over a 12-year period, 264 people developed type 2 diabetes (i.e. high blood sugar levels).
The levels of loneliness measured at the beginning of the data collection was found to be a significant predictor of the onset of type 2 diabetes.
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This relationship remained intact when accounting for various risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
This included smoking, alcohol, weight, level of blood glucose, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
The association was also independent of living alone, depression and social isolation.
Dr Ruth Hackett, the lead author from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, commented on the findings.
She remarked the results she and her team discovered were “particularly striking”.
“The strong relationship between loneliness and the later onset of type 2 diabetes… is robust, even when factors that are important in diabetes development are taken into account,” she said.
Dr Hackett added: “The study also demonstrates a clear distinction between loneliness and social isolation.”
She elaborated: “Isolation or living alone doesn’t predict type 2 diabetes whereas loneliness, which is defined by a person’s quality of relationships, does.”
According to the study, a possible biological link could exist between loneliness and diabetes.
The theory goes that constant loneliness could impact the body’s biological response to stress.
Dr Hackett explained: “If the feeling of loneliness becomes chronic, then everyday you’re stimulating the stress system.
“Over time that leads to wear and tear on your body and those negative changes in stress-related biology may be linked to type 2 diabetes development.”