Living at a socioeconomic disadvantage growing up could increase your risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood, new research indicates.

The findings from the Finland-based study revealed that certain lifestyle factors during childhood and adolescence can worsen glucose metabolism growing up.

The researchers suggest socioeconomic disadvantage, where people live in poorer neighbourhoods, is a “powerful predictor” of diabetes, and recommend that greater awareness and resources be considered for people living in these areas.

A total of 3,467 participants were followed in this long-term study. They were first reviewed between the ages of 6-18 years and followed for an average of 30 years.

The Finnish study team used their data to examine 10 risk factors for type 2 diabetes from childhood to adulthood, and the association of cumulative neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage.

The differences in risk factors at the beginning of follow-up were small, but large differences emerged as the participants grew up.

“Individuals consistently exposed to high neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage were more likely to be obese, hypertensive, have a fatty liver, and diabetes compared with those who were consistently exposed to low neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage,” the researchers explained.

High neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage was characterised by decreased fruit and vegetable intake as early as aged six, as well as lower levels of exercise, and increased smoking prevalence from age 12, among other criteria.

“In conclusion, our study suggests that neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage is a powerful predictor of diabetes that has an effect across the life course through the modified lifestyles and accelerated development of cardiometabolic risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension, and a fatty liver,” the authors wrote.

“These findings support policies that increase resources and opportunities for those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas.”

The findings have been published online in the journal The Lancet.

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