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Worry and sleepless nights increase risk of diabetes in men

New research claims that psychological distress including anxiety, insomnia, depression, apathy and fatigue can more than double the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in older men.

Scientists looked at 2,127 men, born between 1938 and 1957, who had normal blood glucose levels. They determined their level of psychological distress both at the beginning and end of the study.

The men were tested for diabetes eight to ten years later and it was found that the men with the highest levels of psychological distress were 2.2 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest levels. Altogether 103 men developed Type 2 diabetes.   

The study also looked at 3,100 middle-aged women but found that there was not an increased risk of diabetes in those with high levels of psychological distress.

More research is needed

“It is intriguing that the increased risk of diabetes occurs in men only and it would be interesting to find out why. The results suggest that it could be due to a hormonal or behavioural influence. We already know from previous studies that stress is considered to be a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes and others have looked at the link between sleep disorders, such as insomnia, and the condition. This research appears to confirm that there might be something in this," said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.

“We know that risk factors which increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes are being white and over 40 years old, or of black or South Asian origin and over 25 years old, having a family member with the condition, being overweight and having high blood pressure. If you have two or more of these risk factors, you should see your GP for a simple test.”

Other factors

Professor Anders Ekbom from the Unit of Clinical Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, conducted the study. “Genetic and environmental factors are involved in the development of Type 2 diabetes. We already knew that psychological distress and depression are risk factors for heart disease and suspected they may play a part in developing Type 2 diabetes, which is corroborated by this research," he said.

"The link could be a result of the way psychological distress affects the brain’s role in regulating hormones or perhaps because depression influences a person’s diet and level of physical activity in a negative way.”

The study was published in the journal ‘Diabetic Medicine’.

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