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

Diabetes pill might replace injection to control blood sugar

October 17, 2017
(HealthDay)— An injectable class of diabetes medication—called glucagon-like peptide-1 or GLP-1—might one day be available in pill form, research suggests.

Skimping on sleep may contribute to gestational diabetes

October 17, 2017
The amount of time spent sleeping in the United States has dropped significantly in the past twenty years with almost a quarter of women and 16 percent of men experiencing insufficient sleep. Now, a new study has found that ...

Artificial pancreas performs well in clinical trial

October 16, 2017
During more than 60,000 hours of combined use of a novel artificial pancreas system, participants in a 12-week, multi-site clinical trial showed significant improvements in two key measures of well-being in people living ...

Omega-6 fats may help prevent type 2 diabetes

October 11, 2017
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be significantly reduced by eating a diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, a new study suggests.

Where there's type 1 diabetes, celiac disease may follow

October 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—Parents of young children with type 1 diabetes need to be on the lookout for symptoms of another autoimmune condition—celiac disease, new research suggests.

Type 1 diabetes and the microbiota—MAIT cells as biomarkers and new therapeutic targets

October 10, 2017
Together with colleagues from AP-HP Necker–Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris, scientists from the Cochin Institute (CNRS / INSERM / Paris Descartes University) have discovered that the onset of type 1 diabetes is preceded ...

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.