Social isolation might be linked to risk of type 2 diabetes

A new study has found that socially isolated individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, compared to those with larger social networks. Researchers began by analyzing data of 2,861 participants from The Maastricht Study, a cohort study initiated in the Netherlands, in which elderly men and women – aged 40 to 75 – were chosen for observation.

Upon close examination, researchers found that 1,623, or over half of all participants, had a normal glucose metabolism. 430 were in the pre-diabetes stage. 111 were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And 697 began the study with type 2 diabetes. The median age was 60.

“Social network characteristics were assessed through a name generator questionnaire. Diabetes status was determined by an oral glucose tolerance test. We used multinomial regression analyses to investigate the associations between social network characteristics and diabetes status, stratified by sex,” the study reads.

According to the findings, as published in the journal BMC Public Health, the participants with smaller social network sizes, or individuals with higher levels of isolation, had more cases of diagnosis for type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, as the study’s author wrote: “In women, proximity and the type of relationship was associated with newly diagnosed and previously diagnosed T2DM. A lack of social participation was associated with pre-diabetes as well as with previously diagnosed T2DM in women, and with previously diagnosed T2DM in men.”

The study also found that isolation in men, but not women, was correlated with higher odds of previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes.

With these findings, researchers hope to increase prevention efforts for type 2 diabetes. “High-risk groups for type 2 diabetes should broaden their network and should be encouraged to make new friends, as well as become members of a club, such as a volunteer organization, sports club or discussion group,” said Dr. Miranda Schram, the study’s author.

“As men living alone seem to be at a higher risk for the development of type 2 diabetes, they should become recognized as a high-risk group in health care. In addition, social network size and participation in social activities may eventually be used as indicators of diabetes risk,” Dr. Schram stated.

Type 2 diabetes is a growing illness that affects over 171 million people worldwide; more common in men. Researchers theorize that number could peak to 366 million by 2030.

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