Diabetes: How Teen Stress Could Predict Adult Risk

Type 2 diabetes risk in adulthood linked to low stress resistance among adolescent males

(RxWiki News) Many people believe that a positive mindset can help them overcome disease. New evidence suggests that the power of the mind-body connection may not only be real, it may also be a two-way street.

A new study found that men exposed to high levels of stress at age 18 — who managed it poorly — were up to 50 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life than their peers.

"These findings suggest that psychosocial function and ability to cope with stress may play an important long-term role in [disease] pathways for type 2 diabetes," said lead study author Casey Crump, MD, of the department of medicine at Stanford University, in a press release.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body processes blood sugar. If left untreated, it can lead to heart, kidney and other serious health problems.

For this study, Dr. Crump and team looked at more than 1,500,000 men enlisted in the Swedish military between 1969 and 1997, a time when national military service was required by law. None had previously been diagnosed with diabetes and each underwent a psychological assessment of stress resistance.

Of these men, about 34,000 developed type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

After adjusting for body mass index (BMI), family history and other factors, researchers found that the 20 percent of men who scored lowest on the stress assessment were about 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than the 20 percent of men who scored highest.

Dr. Crump and team explained that the role stress plays in type 2 diabetes risk is complex, and likely involves unhealthy lifestyle choices that people are more likely to make when under stress, such as smoking, poor diet and a lack of physical activity.

Because this study focused only on men, researchers said its findings cannot be directly applied to women.

This study was published Jan. 13 in the journal Diabetologia.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the Swedish Research Council and others funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 18, 2016