Traumatic Childhood Events Can Triple Risk of Type 1 Diabetes

Experiencing serious life events (SLEs) like the death of a family member, divorce or illness during childhood may triple the risk of developing ‍‍‍type 1 diabetes later in life, according to a new study from Sweden.

Over 10,000 families participated in the research, which examined how environmental factors contribute to the incidence of type 1 diabetes. Compared with other factors that raise type 1 diabetes risk, like birth weight or nutrition during infancy, researchers found SLEs to be just as significant.

Children who had experienced psychologically stressful events – even after researchers accounted for genetic predisposition to type 1 diabetes – were about three times more likely to develop the condition than those who hadn't.

Stress and disease

Researchers said there are a couple of different mechanisms that may link SLEs to type 1 diabetes, the first being that SLEs can contribute to beta cell stress and increased insulin demands due to the psychological stress of trauma or change.

Chronic stress, too, may contribute to changes in the immune system, which then cause the responses indicated in autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, the researchers said.

The authors concluded that more studies are needed to determine exactly how and when psychological stress may contribute to the autoimmune response in children, as well as how these factors may change depending on a child's genetic predisposition to diabetes.

"As experience of stressful life events cannot be avoided, children and their parents should get adequate support to cope with these events to avoid their consequences, which could include medical issues," they wrote.

The study is published in the journal Diabetologia.

Source: Science Daily

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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