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One Spouse with T2DM May Increase Risk Up to 26% for Their Partner

How can couples avoid a double diabetes diagnosis?… 

The McGill University Health Center in Canada recently looked at multiple existing studies to study whether spouses of type 2 diabetics have an increased risk of developing diabetes themselves. While it is currently well-known that being biologically related to people who have type 2 diabetes puts people at risk for the disease, this is one of the first trials to assess if the same risk exists in non-biologically related family members.

The study looked at a total of 75,498 couples and found that having a spouse with type 2 diabetes can increase the partner’s diabetic risk by 26%. In explanation of these results, the researchers cited something called "social clustering". Social clustering is the idea that people who live together are in the same environment and they tend to develop the same eating and exercise habits. In addition to social clustering, researchers report that "assortative mating" may also play a part in the increased risk. Assortative mating is the idea that people tend to pair up with a mate that has similar characteristics to themselves, include health habits.

This study suggests that by having a mate with type 2 diabetes, the other spouse should be careful of their own habits in order to make sure they avoid a similar diagnosis. Also, since it appears that the habits of people in couples tend to influence their significant others, adopting healthy habits may help both partners to live healthier and longer lives.

Practice Pearls:
  • Having a spouse with type 2 diabetes puts the partner at a 26% higher risk of developing diabetes.
  • Increased diabetes risk may be due to the fact that many couples living together tend to share similar activity levels and dietary habits.
  • Assortative mating may also play a role in the increased diabetes risk, which is the idea that people tend to mate with others who already have similar characteristics as themselves.

BMC Medicine, January 2014