New European research has found that a good social life could lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes.
Carried out by researchers at Maastricht University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, the study looked at 2861 men and women aged 40 to 75 years to see which elements of social isolation, already known to be associated with type 2 diabetes, play a role in development of the condition.
The team assessed the associations of a broad range of social network characteristics with normal glucose metabolism, pre-diabetes, newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, and previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
After assessing participants' social network characteristics using a questionnaire, the team found that social participation was beneficial for lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, with a lack of participation in clubs or other social groups associated with 60% higher chance of pre-diabetes and 112% higher chance of type 2 diabetes in women compared to those with normal glucose metabolism.
In men, lack of social participation was associated with 42% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
The team also found that a smaller social network increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, with each drop in one social network member associated with a 5% higher chance of newly diagnosed or 12% higher chance of previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes, compared to those with normal glucose metabolism.
For every 10% decrease in the number of social network members living within walking distance, there was a 21% higher chance of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes and a 9% higher odds of previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes in women.
In men, living alone was associated with 94% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the study, though no significant associations between living alone and diabetes were observed in women.
Less emotional support related to important decisions and less practical support related to work and health were also associated with newly and previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes in men and women, but not in pre-diabetes.
Lead author of the study Stephanie Brinkhues noted, "We are the first to determine the association of a broad range of social network characteristics -- such as social support, network size or type of relationships -- with different stages of type 2 diabetes. Our findings support the idea that resolving social isolation may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes."
"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," added corresponding author Dr. Miranda Schram, "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."
The findings can be found published online in the journal BMC Public Health.