Loneliness worse than bad diet, smoking for diabetics: study

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A new study has found that loneliness is one of the most major health detriments there could be for diabetes patients.

Extended isolation has “a stronger influence than depression, smoking, physical activity and diet” on those with diabetes, according to a new Tulane University study.

Particularly, lonely diabetics are more prone to cardiovascular disease as opposed to the general population, the researchers noted.

“The quality of social contact appears to be more important for heart health in people with diabetes than the number of engagements,” study author Dr. Lu Qi, a professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said.

Researchers observed 18,509 adults aged 37 to 73 — all who had diabetes but no cardiovascular illnesses — and saw that the loneliest individuals had an 11% to 26% higher risk for cardiovascular disease.


A study found being lonely greatly impacts diabetes patients.
A study found being lonely greatly impacts diabetes patients.
Getty Images/Westend61

“We also found that for patients with diabetes, the consequence of physical risk factors (i.e. poorly controlled blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and poor kidney function) was greater in those who were lonely compared to those who were not,” Qi added.

“The findings suggest that asking patients with diabetes about loneliness should become part of standard assessment, with referral of those affected to mental health services.”

Conversely, loneliness was found to have a “weaker influence” on kidney function, cholesterol and body mass index.


Diabetes patients should be screened for isolation too, new research advises.
Diabetes patients should be screened for isolation too, new research advises.
Getty Images/Maskot

Regardless, Qi advises that “we should not downplay the importance of loneliness on physical and emotional health.”

“I would encourage patients with diabetes who feel lonely to join a group or class and try to make friends with people who have shared interests,” Qi said.

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