Emotional Strain Linked with Diabetes

APRIL 01, 2005

Family stress may play a part in a diabetes diagnosis in infants and children. A study, reported in Diabetes Care (February 2005), found that psychological damage within families may help initiate diabetes-related autoimmunity in infants. Furthermore, the strain accelerated the progression of the disease in children already diagnosed with diabetes. More importantly, however, researchers observed this in families without a history of diabetes.

The researchers theorized that psychosocial stress in families "may affect children negatively due to a link to hormonal levels and nervous signals that in turn influence both insulin sensitivity/ insulin need and the immune system."

For the study, the researchers studied the first 4400 consecutive 1-year-old children from a large population-based study. The children's parents completed questionnaires at birth and 1 year on several measures of psychosocial stress and socio-demographic background. Blood samples were taken at age 1 to identify type 1 diabetes-associated autoantibodies. The results of the study found that infants with diabetes-related autoimmunity were more apt to have negative psychosocial factors. The association was also witnessed in children with foreign-born mothers or fathers with low education levels.