Study finds prolonged loneliness, apart from unhealthy diet and inactivity, could lead to onset of type 2 diabetes
Scientists found that loneliness may stimulate the stress system of the body which, eventually, may cause negative stress-related changes in the body, resulting in the development of type 2 diabetes
It has been about six months since COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed in many affected countries of the world. While the lockdown was a necessary step to slow the spread of COVID-19 infection, it negatively impacted many aspects of people’s lives, including the mental health of those who were self-isolating away from their family and friends.
But such detachment from people not only affects the mental health but has also been linked with some metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
So far, we have known that type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin and blood sugar levels begin to spike. Usually, this insulin resistance occurs in overweight and inactive people. However, in recent research published in the journal Diabetologia on 15 September, it was stated that prolonged loneliness could also lead to the development of diabetes in a person.
Loneliness and physical health
Loneliness is the state of discomfort where the social desires of a person are not met and they start finding a discrepancy between desired and actual social relationships. Being lonely should not be confused with being alone as loneliness is a state of mind, where the person feels an absence regardless of being in the company of others.
In the past, scientists have concluded the association of loneliness and heart diseases in various studies. However, this time scientists from King’s College London found a relationship between loneliness and the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The study conducted by the Psychology and Neuroscience department of King’s College London, analysed the data of 4,112 adults in the age group of 50 years and above who were already enrolled in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The data of these non-diabetic (at the beginning of the study) healthy individuals were collected from 2006 to 2017.
The results of the study
After the follow-up period of 11 years, the results showed that out of all the participants, 264 people with high scores of loneliness developed type 2 diabetes. When the scientists took account of all other possible factors responsible for type 2 diabetes, such as age, sex, ethnicity, the habit of smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, body mass index, HbA1c (test to measure average blood sugar), high blood pressure and prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, the results remained the same.
Furthermore, the scientists also found that those who lived alone or were socially isolated but didn’t report loneliness did not show diabetes onset.
The scientists concluded that type 2 diabetes is not associated with social isolation or living alone but with loneliness and the quality of relationships a person has in their life. They further stated that loneliness may stimulate the stress system of the body which, eventually, may cause negative stress-related changes in the body, resulting in the development of type 2 diabetes.
For more information, read our article on Health effects of loneliness.
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