Loneliness and the risk of type 2 diabetes

Siri Rosenkilde*, Sofie Have Hoffmann, Anne Bonde Thorsted, Trine Allerslev Horsbøl, Katrine Rich Madsen, Sara Fokdal Lehn, Allan Kofoed-Enevoldsen, Peter Bindslev Iversen, Marie Stjerne Grønkjær, Lau Caspar Thygesen


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INTRODUCTION: The incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing globally. Recent research suggests that loneliness could be a potential risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. We aimed to investigate the association between loneliness and type 2 diabetes and the modifying effect of mental disorders.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted a prospective study including 465 290 adults (aged ≥16 years) who participated in either the Danish Health and Morbidity Survey or the Danish National Health Survey between 2000 and 2017. Loneliness was based on self-report, while type 2 diabetes was measured using an algorithm combining several health registers including type 2 diabetes patients treated both within the hospital sector and general practice. Cox proportional hazards regressions were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs).

RESULTS: During a mean follow-up time of 6.3 years, 13 771 individuals (3%) developed type 2 diabetes. Feeling lonely once in a while was associated with a 14% increased risk of type 2 diabetes (95% CI 1.09 to 1.20), while feeling lonely often was associated with a 24% increased risk (95% CI 1.14 to 1.34), independent of sociodemographic factors and body mass index. The association was stronger among individuals without a mental disorder (HR 1.21, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.34 among those feeling lonely often) compared with those with a mental disorder (HR 1.07, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.23).

CONCLUSIONS: Loneliness independently increased the risk of type 2 diabetes. The effect was more pronounced in individuals without a mental disorder, as having a mental disorder itself likely increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. These findings emphasize the importance of addressing loneliness as a modifiable risk factor in preventing type 2 diabetes.

TidsskriftBMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care
Udgave nummer2
StatusUdgivet - 12. mar. 2024

Bibliografisk note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2024. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


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