Women with high levels of stress could have nearly double the risk for type 2 diabetes compared to those with lower stress levels, research suggests.
US researchers looked at the health data of 22,706 women whose average age was 72. They followed the participants for three years and monitored their stress levels.
Older women were studied because, according to the researchers, they represent an “increasingly higher proportion of our population, [and] we need to better understand risk factors for diabetes in this group”.
Previous diabetes risk studies have focused on individual stress factors, such as depression or anxiety, but this one looked at the impact of multiple stressors (acute and chronic) with diabetes risk.
Acute stress and chronic stressors included negative and traumatic life events, whereas chronic stress was related to factors such as work, family and relationships.
The researchers found those with the highest levels of stress nearly doubled their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Psychosocial stressors as risk factors for diabetes should be taken as seriously as other embraced diabetes risk factors,” said Jonathan Butler, the study’s lead researcher and a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for the Study of Adversity and Cardiovascular Disease.
The study will be presented on 10 November at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference in Chicago.
The participants’ diet and exercise patterns have not as yet been reported, but the researchers added that lifestyle interventions could be significant for those experiencing stress.
“We know that lifestyle intervention works for diabetes prevention, but that can be challenging if people experience cumulative stressors, like losing a job or caring for a family member, that hinder them from engaging in healthy behaviours like exercising, eating right or smoking cessation,” said senior author Dr Michelle A. Albert.