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Stress at 18 linked to risk of diabetes

Friday January 15th, 2016

People with a low resistance to stress at 18 could double their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life, according to a study in Sweden.

Led by Dr Casey Crump, of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University, California, USA, this research looked at whether or not low stress resilience in late adolescence is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

It builds on previous studies that suggest psychosocial stress in adulthood is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, possibly mediated by behavioural and physiological factors.

Working with colleagues in Sweden, the population-based study examined all 1,534,425 military conscripts in Sweden during 1969-1997. None of the men had a previous diagnosis of diabetes and they had all undergone standardised psychological assessment for stress resilience, measured on a scale of 1-9. They were followed up for type 2 diabetes and identified from outpatient and inpatient diagnoses during 1987-2012.

They found that the 20% of men with the lowest resistance to stress – who scored between one and three – were 51% more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than the 20% who scored seven to nine points on the scale.

The authors, whose work is published in Diabetologia, say unhealthy lifestyle plus other physiological factors are likely to influence stress resilience because people under stress are more likely to smoke, eat an unhealthy diet and not exercise.

“These findings suggest that psychosocial function and ability to cope with stress may play an important long-term role in aetiological pathways for type 2 diabetes,” say the authors.

“Additional studies will be needed to elucidate the specific underlying causal factors, which may help inform more effective preventive interventions across the lifespan.”

Crump C, Sundquist J, et al. Stress resilience and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes in 1.5 million young men Diabetologia 14 January 2016; doi: 10.1007/s00125-015-3846-7 [abstract]

Tags: Diabetes | Europe | Infancy to Adolescence | Mental Health | North America

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