Lifestyle changes among disadvantaged groups key to tackling diabetes

August 21, 2012

Unhealthy behaviors like being overweight, smoking and heavy drinking explain almost half of the social inequalities in type 2 diabetes, finds a study published in the British Medical Journal today.

The authors say further efforts to tackle these risk factors, particularly excess weight, among disadvantaged groups are urgently needed.

The burden of type 2 diabetes disproportionally affects the lower socioeconomic groups in society. Lifestyle related risk factors are thought to play a key role, but previous studies have tended to underestimate their effect.

So an international team of researchers set out to measure the contribution of several major risk factors for type 2 diabetes to socioeconomic differences across society.

They assessed health behaviours (smoking, , diet and physical activity), body mass index, and biological risk markers (blood pressure and ) in 7,237 middle-aged adults without diabetes, measuring these risk factors repeatedly over an average of 14 years.

All the study participants were taking part in the Whitehall II study, which is evaluating the impact of social and economic factors on the of around 10,000 British civil servants, aged between 35 and 55 in 1985.

Socioeconomic status was assessed through occupational position and reflected education, salary, social status, and level of responsibility at work.

Over the average follow-up of 14 years, 818 cases of diabetes were identified. Participants in the lowest occupational category had a 1.86-fold greater risk of developing diabetes relative to those in the highest occupational category.

Health behaviours and body mass index explained up to 45% of this socioeconomic differential in both men and women when changes over time and long term exposure were accounted for. With additional adjustments for biological risk markers, a total of 53% of the socioeconomic differential was explained.

was the most important single contributing factor, explaining about 20% of .

This finding is not surprising, say the authors, as weight gain is strongly socially patterned. However, the effects of diet and physical activity were smaller than expected, given that these behaviours are also strongly socially patterned, they add. The contribution of smoking and alcohol consumption was also modest.

They conclude: "Given the increasing burden of type 2 diabetes and the observed increase in in prevalence of type 2 diabetes, further efforts to tackle these factors are urgently needed."

Explore further: Policies needed to tackle inequalities in deaths from heart disease in England

Related Stories

Policies needed to tackle inequalities in deaths from heart disease in England

June 12, 2012
Although improved treatment uptake for coronary heart disease in England has resulted in a dramatic fall in death rates over recent years, improvements in major risk factors vary substantially between richer and poorer people, ...

Racial disparity in diabetes mostly due to lifestyle

July 27, 2012
(HealthDay) -- For postmenopausal women there are large racial/ethnic differences in diabetes incidence, but these are mostly attributable to lifestyle factors, according to a study published online July 25 in Diabetes Care.

Recommended for you

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Smart mat detects early warning signs of foot ulcers

August 16, 2017
While completing his residency in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in the mid-2000s, Jon Bloom saw his fair share of foot amputations among patients with diabetes. The culprit: infected foot ulcers.

The best place to treat type 1 diabetes might be just under your skin

August 14, 2017
A group of U of T researchers have demonstrated that the space under our skin might be an optimal location to treat type 1 diabetes (T1D).

New measure of insulin-making cells could gauge diabetes progression, treatment

August 10, 2017
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a new measurement for the volume and activity of beta cells, the source of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

Pioneering immunotherapy shows promise in type 1 diabetes

August 9, 2017
It may be possible to 'retrain' the immune system to slow the progression of type 1 diabetes, according to results of a clinical trial published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Online team-based game helps patients with diabetes lower blood glucose

August 8, 2017
Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System have found that an online, team-based game designed to teach patients about diabetes self-management had a sustained and meaningful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.