In a new research project, scientists have discovered something alarming.
People who go through personal violence or child abuse are more likely to get diabetes in the future. Their risk of developing diabetes increases by more than 20%.
This important study was conducted by a team of researchers, including the head of the University of Kentucky Center for Research on Violence Against Women (CRVAW).
The research report, called “Lifetime Interpersonal Violence or Abuse and Diabetes Rates by Sex and Race,” has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Ann Coker, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers, is also a professor at the UK College of Medicine. She explained their findings.
If a person experiences violence or trauma in their life, their risk of getting diabetes increases by 20% to 35%.
But the good news is both violence and diabetes can be prevented. So, if we can reduce violence and trauma, we could also reduce the risk of diabetes.
Understanding the Problem: Violence, Stress and Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious health problem. It’s a disease that affects how your body uses insulin to control your blood sugar. In the United States, over 37 million adults have diabetes, and it is the eighth leading cause of death.
In this study, the researchers looked at a specific type of violence, called “interpersonal violence or abuse” (IVA). IVA includes physical or psychological violence, threats, or abuse in adulthood, as well as child abuse or neglect.
Experiencing violence or abuse can lead to long-term stress. This stress can affect your body in many ways. It can increase the level of a hormone called cortisol and lower insulin levels.
Both of these changes can lead to higher blood sugar levels, which is a major risk factor for diabetes.
The Details: Connecting the Dots Between Violence and Diabetes
The research team used data from a large study called the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS). The SCCS collected data from around 25,000 people between 2002 and 2015.
The participants answered questions about their experiences with violence and abuse, and their health was tracked over time.
This study was unique because it had enough data to examine the link between personal violence, child abuse, and diabetes among different groups of people.
For example, it looked at the effect on both men and women, as well as on people who identify as Black or white.
Before this study, it was known that women who experienced partner violence were more likely to have diabetes.
But, the researchers did not know if the violence happened before the diabetes developed. They also didn’t have information on how this relationship worked for men or for different racial groups.
The findings showed an increased risk of diabetes among people who had experienced violence, even before the extra stress of the COVID pandemic.
Looking Forward: Reducing Violence and Preventing Diabetes
Both violence and diabetes cost the U.S. a lot of money. According to recent data from the CDC, violence is associated with costs of $3.6 trillion, and diabetes is linked with costs of $327 billion. But, both problems can be prevented.
Strategies to prevent violence and abuse can also help prevent diabetes.
These strategies include financial support for families, promoting social norms against violence, giving children a good start in life, teaching important skills, connecting young people with caring adults, and intervening to lessen harm.
As the research shows, violence and abuse have significant and long-lasting impacts on health, including the risk of diabetes. By taking steps to prevent violence, we can also work to prevent diabetes and improve overall health.
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The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
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