Feeling lonely leaves one in an unpleasant state of mind. But did you know it could also take a negative toll on your health? The study published in Diabetologia found adults who reported any cases of loneliness were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Norwegian scientists say a lonely person experiences a state of psychological stress which could provoke some stressors in the body that tend to accumulate and lead to type 2 diabetes. Although the exact mechanism remains unclear, researchers point to some evidence to suggest that loneliness could cause an increase in the intake of unhealthy food such as sugary food and drinks. As a result, the blood sugar levels increase — causing type 2 diabetes.
It’s estimated that at least half of people who experience loneliness have trouble falling asleep. Stress, therefore, becomes induced and causes the onset of type 2 diabetes. Prior studies have also linked depression as a possible mediator between loneliness and type 2 diabetes.
This inspired the authors to focus more on the link between loneliness and type 2 diabetes in a large group of participants. At the same time, they look at insomnia and depression as possible “culprits”.
Methodology & Results
The study was conducted with over 230,000 people whose health information was assessed through their blood samples, medical examinations, and self-report questionnaires. After reviewing the blood samples, those already with type 1 or type 2 diabetes were withdrawn from the study. The researchers then narrowed their focus on data provided by a total of 24,042 participants.
To measure loneliness, the participants were to respond with either “no”, “a little”, “a good amount” or “very much” to whether they by any chance had felt lonely in the past two weeks. During a follow-up period of two decades, the researchers adjusted for variables such as sex, age, and education. They found that participants who answered “very much” to the question on loneliness had increased risks of type 2 diabetes than those who weren’t lonely.
Importantly, among the 24,024 participants, 13 percent of the participants reported varying extents of loneliness. Of which 5 percent were found to develop diabetes between 1995 to 2019. The researchers also discovered that 59 percent were mostly men with an average age of 48years. More so, the men were found to be married and also had the lowest level of education.
The researchers now worked to figure out if depression and insomnia played a part in the relationship between loneliness and type 2 diabetes. For the result, they found that depression was not involved with loneliness leading to type 2 diabetes and insomnia only had a weak effect.
“More studies need to be conducted with an increased frequency of checkups to accurately determine depression and insomnia as possible mediators between loneliness and type 2 diabetes”, the authors wrote.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that being lonely comes with poor connections with friends, social isolation, and reduced social participation. For this reason, a happy lifestyle that accompanies healthy eating habits and daily exercise is largely sacrificed. This follows up with an increase in the exposure of the person to behaviors that promote the development of type 2 diabetes.
The authors concluded by emphasizing the importance of improving your social connections to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent the likelihood of diabetes. In addition to that, they also suggest health professionals include loneliness during patient consultations and treatments concerning type 2 diabetes.