Isolation increases risk of diabetes, study finds

In addition to examining the relationship between loneliness and the risk of developing T2D, we examined whether depression and insomnia play a role. It also points to a link between psychological stress and an individual’s risk of developing T2D.

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First Published Sep 29, 2022, 8:17 PM IST

Studies show people are twice as likely to develop diabetes when they are isolated. Loneliness is associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a new study.
The research was published in Diabetologia (European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD] Journal) Roger E., Associate Professor at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. was conducted by Henriksen and his colleagues.

In addition to examining the relationship between loneliness and the risk of developing T2D, we examined whether depression and insomnia play a role. It also points to a link between psychological stress and an individual’s risk of developing T2D.

Loneliness creates a chronic and sometimes long-lasting condition. This may activate the body’s physiological stress response. Although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, this response is believed to play an important role in the development of T2D through mechanisms such as temporary insulin resistance to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers said.

This process also involves changes in the brain’s regulation of food intake. It increases appetite for carbohydrates and subsequently raises blood sugar levels.

Previous studies have found a link between loneliness and unhealthy eating. That includes drinks and foods high in sugar and fat. HUNT Research Center (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology [NTNU]), the researchers used data from the HUNT study, a collaboration between Trøndelag County Council, the Central Norway Regional Health Authority and the Norwegian Institute of Health.

Depressive symptom severity was assessed using a questionnaire completed at HUNT3. It consists of 7 questions. Higher scores indicate more severe symptoms.

Individuals with insomnia were identified based on responses to the questions ‘How often in the last 3 months did you: ‘have difficulty falling asleep at night’, ‘wake up repeatedly during the night’, and ‘wake up too early and could not’?

The study found that high loneliness was strongly associated with a higher risk of T2D. After adjusting for age, gender and education level, they found that when participants were asked whether they felt lonely, those who responded ‘very much’ were twice as likely to develop T2D as those who did not feel lonely.

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Last Updated Sep 29, 2022, 8:17 PM IST

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