Researchers at New King’s College London found a relationship between loneliness and type 2 diabetes when analyzing data from more than 4,000 people over 50 years of age.
A new study from New King’s College London published in the journal Diabetologia indicates that there may be a correlation between the feeling of loneliness and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing data from 4,112 people over the age of 50 that were collected between 2002 and 2017.
At the beginning of this period, no participant had diabetes; however, after 12 years, 264 developed type 2 diabetes.
The scientists compared these results with those of tests done with each of the patients to assess their level of loneliness.
Then, they realized that a one-point increase in the averaged loneliness score was associated with a 41% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes onset.
“The study shows a strong relationship between loneliness and the later onset of type 2 diabetes. What is particularly striking is that this relationship is robust even when factors that are important in diabetes development are taken into account such as smoking, alcohol intake and blood glucose as well as mental health factors such as depression,” said lead author Dr. Ruth Hackett of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London.
The specialist thought about doing the research when the UK established a lockdown period to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is likely that many people experienced this difficult emotion during this time,” Dr. Hackett said.
The study considers that loneliness is a negative emotion that occurs when a person realizes that their social needs are not being met, and points out that it is not the same thing as social isolation, as it relates to the perceived quality of relationships instead of the number of social connections.
One explanation for the link between loneliness and type 2 diabetes may be the constant impact of this feeling on our biological system responsible for stress.
“If the feeling of loneliness becomes chronic, everyday you’re stimulating the stress system and over time that leads to wear and tear on your body and those negative changes in stress-related biology may be linked to type 2 diabetes development,” Dr. Hackett explained.
However, despite suggesting that loneliness is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, the mechanisms behind this correlation have yet to be clarified.