Why having more friends reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes
Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions. This year, former U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy wrote that “loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.” Social isolation takes a toll on the body, with scientists previously spotting links to the development of hypertension, an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a propensity in general toward premature death.
To add to this growing list, researchers at the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that people with larger social groups receive fewer type 2 diabetes diagnoses compared to socially isolated people. This research, published Monday in the journal BMC Public Health, suggests that promoting social interaction could prevent or treat type 2 diabetes.
“Most diabetes prevention efforts focus on becoming more physically active or modifying one’s diet, which are hard to achieve,” Miranda Schram, an epidemiologist at Maastricht University and study co-author, told PBS NewsHour. “So we wanted to look for effective, alternative strategies that can be used for intervention.”
To look for a connection between social interaction and diabetes, the research team needed to study a large-scale population. Luckily, the ongoing Maastricht Study–a comprehensive search for genetic and environmental risk factors involved in type 2 diabetes –shared 2,861 of its participants. The group, aged 40 to 75, hailed from the southern Netherlands.
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