The risk of children developing type 1 diabetes can be increased by stressful life events in childhood such as death in the family and divorce, new research suggests.
A study conducted at Linkoping University, Sweden evaluated over 10,000 families to assess whether stressful situations at home could be pinpointed.
The families all had children between the ages of two and 14 that initially did not have type 1 diabetes, with parents given questionnaires to highlight any serious life events their children has experienced.
58 children were subsequently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, with the researchers concluding that stressful events during childhood could play a role in beta cell stress.
Due to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the demand for insulin could be increased due to the physiological stress response.
“Consistent with several previous retrospective studies, this first prospective study concludes that the experience of a serious life event (reasonably indicating psychological stress) during the first 14 years of life may be a risk factor for developing type 1 diabetes,” the authors wrote.
Urging caution
A statement from JDRF, a leading diabetes charity, has advised caution should be taken over these findings and that it is impossible for parents to create a stress-free environment for their children.
“Yes, this study indicates that potentially, life’s inevitable stresses could hasten the development of type 1 diabetes in some people,” said Sarah Johnso, spokesperson for JDRF.
“But while this study looked at a large population of 10,495 families, in fact only 58 children went on to develop type 1 diabetes, so this means it is very hard to draw firm conclusions about how the condition develops.”
Johnson added that nothing can be done to prevent diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, while the researchers also highlighted that family history of the disease makes diagnosis four times more likely compared to experiencing a serious life event in childhood.
The results of this study were published in the journal Diabetologia.
In September 2014, Diabetes.co.uk conducted a survey of more than 500 patients with diabetes, with 78 per cent of participants citing stress in the workplace, long work hours and a family bereavement among the reasons they believed caused their diabetes.

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