Nav: Home

Loneliness predicts development of type 2 diabetes

September 15, 2020

Published in the journal Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]), the study shows that it is the absence of quality connections with people and not the lack of contact that predicts the onset of type 2 diabetes, suggesting that helping people form and experience positive relationships could be a useful tool in prevention strategies for type 2 diabetes.

The results have implications in light of recent findings that people with diabetes are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19. The study indicates that prolonged loneliness may influence the development of diabetes, suggesting the experience of lockdown could potentially compound people's vulnerability in this pandemic if the loneliness continues for some time.

Loneliness occurs when an individual perceives that their social needs are not being met and reflects an imbalance between desired and actual social relationships. A fifth of adults in the UK and a third of adults in the USA report feeling lonely sometimes.

There is a growing interest in the role of loneliness in health and previous research has associated loneliness with increased risk of death and heart disease. This is the first study to investigate the experience of loneliness with later onset of type 2 diabetes.

The study analysed data from the English Longitudinal Study Ageing on 4112 adults aged 50 years and over which was collected at several times from 2002 to 2017. At the start of data collection all participants were free of diabetes and had normal levels of blood glucose.

The study showed that over a period of 12 years 264 people developed type 2 diabetes. and the level of loneliness measured at the start of data collection was a significant predictor of the onset of type 2 diabetes later on in life. This relationship remained intact when accounting for smoking, alcohol, weight, level of blood glucose, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The association was also independent of depression, living alone and social isolation.

Lead author Dr Ruth Hackett from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) King's College London said: 'The study shows a strong relationship between loneliness and the later onset of type 2 diabetes. What is particularly striking is that this relationship is robust even when factors that are important in diabetes development are taken into account such as smoking, alcohol intake and blood glucose as well as mental health factors such as depression. The study also demonstrates a clear distinction between loneliness and social isolation in that isolation or living alone does not predict type 2 diabetes whereas loneliness, which is defined by a person's quality of relationships, does.

She continued: 'I came up with the idea for the research during UK lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic as I became increasingly aware and interested in how loneliness may affect our health, especially as it is likely that many more people were experiencing this difficult emotion during this period.'

According to the study a possible biological reason behind the association between loneliness and type 2 diabetes could be the impact of constant loneliness on the biological system responsible for stress, which, over time affects the body and increases the risk for diabetes.

'If the feeling of loneliness becomes chronic,' explained Dr Hackett. 'Then everyday you're stimulating the stress system and 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.'

Another explanation for the findings could be biases in our thinking that may perpetuate the association between loneliness and diabetes as when people feel lonely, they expect people will react to them negatively which makes it more difficult to form good relationships.
-end-
Reference: Hackett, R.A. et al. (2020) Loneliness and type 2 diabetes incidence: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Diabetologia

King's College London

Related Diabetes Articles:

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).
Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.
Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.
Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.
People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.
Diabetes, but not diabetes drug, linked to poor pregnancy outcomes
New research indicates that pregnant women with pre-gestational diabetes who take metformin are at a higher risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes -- such as major birth defects and pregnancy loss -- than the general population, but their increased risk is not due to metformin but diabetes.
New oral diabetes drug shows promise in phase 3 trial for patients with type 1 diabetes
A University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus study finds sotagliflozin helps control glucose and reduces the need for insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Can continuous glucose monitoring improve diabetes control in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin
Two studies in the Jan. 24/31 issue of JAMA find that use of a sensor implanted under the skin that continuously monitors glucose levels resulted in improved levels in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin multiple times a day, compared to conventional treatment.
More Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.