According to a recent 20-year follow-up research, people who experience loneliness have a higher chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
A considerable increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes has been related to loneliness, according to research from Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.
The Trndelag Health Study (the HUNT study), a significant longitudinal health study based on a population from central Norway, provided the data for the 20-year follow-up study that was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). After hearing James A. Coan, director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Virginia, discuss the social baseline theory about ten years ago, Roger E. Henriksen, associate professor at the Institute of Nursing at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, developed an interest in how social relationships affect physical health.
According to the hypothesis, the human brain anticipates having access to social connections that reduce risk and necessitate less work to achieve objectives. Henriksen said that this indicates neurologically that the brain “really expects to be together with individuals you trust.” Henriksen co-authored a study in 2014 that examined the possibility that people without close relationships may experience more demands on their own neural metabolic resources on a daily basis when it comes to problem-solving, staying alert to potential threats, and controlling emotional responses. According to the findings of that study, higher sugar consumption is a result of relative social isolation.
Henriksen was interested in determining whether persons who lack social connections consume more sugar, and whether this greater sugar intake is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in such people. Over 230,000 people have taken part in the HUNT project since its inception in 1984, answering questionnaires about their health and providing blood samples for research. Three of the population surveys from the HUNT project were used by the Norwegian researchers for this study. Research conducted between 1995 and 1997 was included in HUNT2, 2006 to 2008 was covered by HUNT3, and 2017 to 2019 was covered by HUNT4.
Participants with type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well as those who had metabolic abnormalities between 1995 and 1997 were excluded from the study, according to Henriksen and the other authors. Due to incomplete data, further participants were removed. In total, more than 24,000 people were analysed for the study. To determine which HUNT4 participants had developed type 2 diabetes over the preceding 20 years, researchers examined blood samples from those individuals.
1,179 people, or 4.9% of the 24,024 participants, developed type 2 diabetes between 1995 and 1997 and 2017 and 2019. In comparison to individuals who did not develop type 2 diabetes, those who did so were more likely to be male (59% vs. 41%), to be older on average (48 vs. 43), to be married (73% vs. 68%), and to have the lowest degree of education (35% vs. 23%). 12.6% of the participants said they experienced loneliness in varying degrees.
In their report, the study’s researchers postulate that loneliness could trigger the body’s physiological stress response, which would alter the cardiovascular system and cause the adrenal glands to generate cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. In addition, the researchers hypothesise that social support may persuade someone to maintain an active and nutritious lifestyle.
Dr. Andrea Paul, a medical advisor for Illuminate Labs, emphasised that while the study did relate loneliness to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes development, it does not demonstrate a causal relationship.
Henriksen would like to see additional research on the connection between loneliness and type 2 diabetes and how it relates to other conditions such as depression or various forms of sleeplessness. Next, Henriksen wants to examine which strategies are effective at reducing loneliness in people. Henriksen intends to do research on the effects of creating individualised strategies for lone patients while collaborating with Norway’s Red Cross.