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Can Teenage Stress Increase Adult Diabetes Risk?

Feb 13, 2016

Study suggests better coping strategies might have a role to play in prevention.

As a teenager, stress is inevitable due to the numerous activities and emotions that are experienced throughout the day.  A recent study has found that 18-year-olds who have a hard time coping with stressful situations are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.  According to Casey Crump, due to various factors, teenage stress increases diabetes risk later in life.  Although this is the first study of its kind, researchers may be on to something that all teenagers should know for prevention.


Over a span of years ranging from 1969-1997, over 1 million males participated in a cohort study.  All of the males used were 18 years of age and were part of Sweden’s military.  None of the participants were previously diagnosed with diabetes, which would skew results.  Each of the males was assessed using a standardized psychological exam, which measured stress levels on a scale of 1-9, and lasted 20 to 30 minutes.  The males were contacted between 1987 and 2012 for follow-up to assess for diabetes.

Of the men studied, 34,008 were diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes mellitus. After analyzing the males, stress test patients who had low stress tolerance were more likely to develop diabetes. In addition to this finding, researchers had to factor in BMI, family history, and socioeconomic conditions.  The hazard ratio for the lowest versus highest quintile was 1.51 with a confidence interval of 1.46, and 1.57.  The p-trend was linear with less than 0.0001.

Casey Crump and colleagues concluded that patients are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life depending on how well one deals with stress.  Of course socioeconomic status played a factor, but this study could be the start of potential research points. Crump believes with this information, preventive strategies can be implemented. She also stated that being overweight and inactive is a known factor for developing diabetes, and these factors can be credited to poor psychosocial situations, smoking, drinking, and even poor eating habits.

Casey Crump is aware that this study is only the start due to it solely focusing on males. This study also only focused on the psychological side and whether a patient developed diabetes.  Future subjects should be monitored not only mentally, but for their diet, behaviors such as smoking/drinking, and other comorbidities/medications.  Also expanded upon was the fact that physiologic changes can increase cortisol levels, which increases insulin release.  Cortisol can be released by a number of things, and with further investigation more information regarding this claim can be brought to light.

Practice Pearls:

  • Stress hormones can alter blood glucose levels, directly resulting in diabetes development.
  • Stress resilience early in life is related to the long-term risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • This knowledge may provide new insights into psychosocial pathways for diabetes.
  • Teaching methods for stress resiliance may be an effective preventive strategy.

Crump, Casey et al. “Stress Resilience And Subsequent Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes In 1.5 Million Young Men”. Diabetologia (2016): n. pag. Web.

Medscape,. “Low Ability To Cope With Stress At 18 Ups Type 2 Diabetes Risk”. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

American Diabetes Association,. “Stress”. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Researched and prepared by Samantha Ferguson, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate University of FAMU College of Pharmacy