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Healthy Social Life Tied to Physical Health

A Healthy Social Life Reduces the Risk of Diabetes

A Healthy Social Life Reduces the Risk of Diabetes

Studies over at Maastricht University in the Netherlands have shown a link between healthy social ties and it’s influence over mental and physical health.  Being socially active can actually reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes according to this study published in the BMC Public Health journal.

Study co-author Dr. Miranda Schram explains, “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.  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 healthcare. In addition, social network size and participation in social activities may eventually be used as indicators of diabetes risk.”

Who Participated?

Medical data from 2,861 patients between 40 and 75 years of age were studied in The Maastricht Study, a research observing genetic and environmental risk factors  in the development of type 2 diabetes.  1,623 of these patients did not have diabetes, 430 did have prediabetes, 111 had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and 697 had pre-existing diabetes.


A correlation was found between the patient’s sociability and how likely they were diagnosed with diabetes, which led researchers to this potential link.  The research team found participants who did not partake in group activities or associate with any social circles had a 60% higher risk of having pre-diabetes.  Women who did not participate in social activities were 112% more likely to have type 2 diabetes, while the men had a 42% higher chance.  Loss of friends or acquaintances also had a significant effect on developing type 2 diabetes, with each loss constituting a 12% increase in the chances of newly diagnosed diabetes.  Men living alone were found to have a 59% higher risk of pre-diabetes, 84% higher chance of recently diagnosed diabetes, and a 94% higher risk of a pre-existing diagnosis of diabetes.  Finally, no links were found in cases in where women lived alone.

Cause and Effect

Although these findings are interesting, researchers note that the cause & effects found in this study can be reversed either way.  It may be that early pre-diabetic symptoms are the cause of low motivations to engage in social activities and not the other way around. “The study is cross-sectional in nature, and therefore, the possibility of reverse causality cannot be excluded,” researchers warn.

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