Feeling Of Loneliness May Double Your Diabetes Risk

February 15, 2023

It is well known that faulty dietary choices, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are among the leading risk factors for diabetes. However, diabetic neuropathy treatment now a new study shows that even loneliness may significantly increase type 2 diabetes risk. There could be many ways in which loneliness increases diabetes risk like loneliness is associated with a higher risk of depression, sleep disorders, and other unhealthy lifestyle choices like binge eating.

The rise of chronic health disorders like diabetes has long perplexed researchers. They understand that lifestyle changes like diet and sedentary lifestyles are among the significant contributors to the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, they also know that there is more to it. Though most of those living with type 2 diabetes are obese individuals and people with sedentary lifestyles, that is not always the case. Diabetes also occurs in those with a relatively balanced lifestyle. Therefore, researchers think that other factors like stress, mood disorders, sleep issues, and various environmental factors may also increase diabetes risk.

Now a new study shows that feeling of loneliness is associated with much greater diabetes risk. These findings are unique in many ways, as, unlike anxiety or depression, loneliness is not a disease. Instead, it is merely a mental state associated with higher distress. It was a study done in Norway. For study purposes, researchers used data from the Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT study). It used longitudinal data from 24,024 individuals. The first data collected information about loneliness (HUNT2 survey, 1995–1997), and the second data registered HbA1C levels (HUNT4 survey, 2017–2019).

Researchers found that those who reported feeling lonely had twice the higher risk of developing diabetes later in life. During the 20-year follow-up period, 4.9% of adults reporting feeling lonely developed type 2 diabetes. This risk was even higher in those living with insomnia or depression. Findings that loneliness may double the risk of type 2 diabetes are surprising. Of course, science knows that loneliness contributes to other health conditions, like increased risk of mental health disorders. However, they did not think that feeling lonely may increase diabetes risk.

Science has long known the benefits of socialization, which is why humans are called social animals. However, those living a lonely life are at a greater risk of various mental health issues like depression. There could be many ways in which loneliness increases diabetes risk. People who socialize less also tend to be less physically active, and they may also engage in binge eating. Such individuals are more likely to have unhealthy habits, substance use disorders, and more.

Additionally, it appears that lonely people also have higher stress hormone levels, which may be another way in which such people develop insulin resistance. Higher cortisol levels are known to be associated with higher diabetes risk. These new findings raise many questions. There is a need to identify the exact mechanism through which loneliness may increase diabetes risk.

Therefore, if you are living with prediabetes or have a family history of diabetes, it is pretty likely that you also tend to socialize less. Quite often, some habits run in the families. It is beyond doubt that people can significantly reduce their diabetes risk through weight loss. Just about a couple of hours of moderate-intensity exercise and reducing body weight by about 7% can almost reduce type 2 diabetes risk by half.

However, now a study shows that one can even reduce diabetes risk by meeting family and friends more often. One may even reduce diabetes risk by spending weekends with friends. Socializing more through other means, like calling friends and family more often, may also help counter feelings of loneliness and reduce diabetes risk.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP