A new study has found that socially isolated individuals are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes more often than individuals with larger social networks.
Promoting social integration and participation may be a promising target in prevention strategies for type 2 diabetes, researchers at Maastricht University Medical Centre in The Netherlands said.
“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, corresponding 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.”
According to the study’s findings, a lack of participation in clubs or other social groups was associated with 60 percent higher odds of pre-diabetes and 112 percent higher odds of type 2 diabetes in women compared to those with normal glucose metabolism. In men, lack of social participation was associated with 42 percent higher odds of type 2 diabetes.
When looking at participants’ social networks, the study found that each drop in one network member was associated with 5 percent to 12 percent higher odds of newly diagnosed or previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes, compared to those with normal glucose metabolism.
Each 10 percent drop in network members — based on an average network size of 10 members — living within walking distance was associated with 9 percent to 21 percent higher odds of type 2 diabetes in women.
Higher percentages of household members in a social network were associated with higher odds of newly diagnosed diabetes in women and men, the study also found.
The researchers also discovered that for men, living alone was associated with 94 percent higher odds of type 2 diabetes.
For the study, published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, the researchers analyzed data on 2,861 participants in The Maastricht Study, an observational cohort study of men and women between the ages of 40 and 75 from the southern part of the Netherlands.
Out of the total number of participants, 1,623 (56.7 percent) had a normal glucose metabolism, 430 (15 percent) had pre-diabetes, 111 (3.9 percent) had newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, while 697 (24.4 percent) had existing type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study.
The researchers note that early changes in glucose metabolism may cause tiredness and feeling unwell, which may explain why individuals limit their social participation. They added that the study’s cross-sectional observational design did not allow for this kind of reverse causality to be ruled out or for conclusions about cause and effect.
Source: BioMed Central