Victims of partner violence and child abuse face a much higher risk of having type 2 diabetes later in life

August 22, 2023

According to the results of a study recently published in the American Journal of  Preventive Medicine, exposure to interpersonal violence throughout childhood or adulthood increases an individual’s chance of developing adult-onset diabetes by more than 20%.

Data showed the risk level is similar among adult males and females, and lower-income Americans, EurekaAlert reports.

Lead investigator Maureen Sanderson, Ph.D., Department of Family and Community Medicine, Meharry Medical College, explains, “While previous research has linked exposure to interpersonal violence with a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, our study is the first to confirm a consistent association among different genders and races within a large, diverse population. Moreover, we were able to establish the temporal sequence for experiencing violence and the subsequent risk of developing diabetes over time.”

Previous research has linked lifetime exposure to interpersonal violence or abuse to an increased risk of chronic psychosocial stress, anxiety, depression, and obesity, EurekaAlert notes.

The investigators took a deeper look at the relationship between these factors—particularly obesity, and the risk of developing adult-onset diabetes—using data from the Southern Community Cohort Study, a large study of an economically and ethnically diverse population in the southeastern United States. More than 25,000 participants were contacted multiple times from 2002 to 2015—answering questions about partner violence (including adult psychological harm, physical violence, and threats), child abuse and neglect (physical, sexual, or emotional abuse), and current health (including diagnoses for adult-onset diabetes).

Co-investigator Ann Coker, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine and Center for Research on Violence Against Women, University of Kentucky,  notes, From this uniquely diverse cohort of over 25,000 participants, we saw that two commonly occurring forms of interpersonal violence—partner violence and child abuse (36% and 32%, respectively, in the study group)—increased the risk of developing adult-onset diabetes by 20-35% when compared to individuals in this same cohort who had not experienced interpersonal violence. These forms of violence increase the risk of trauma-associated stress disorders, which can cause adult-onset diabetes.”

Experiencing both child abuse and adult violence increased the risk of developing diabetes by 35% for both Black and White participants, and males and females.

Rates of interpersonal violence, psychosocial distress, and obesity all increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Sanderson notes, “Our finding that lifetime interpersonal violence was associated with a significantly increased risk of developing diabetes across race and gender before the additional social stress of the COVID-19 pandemic strongly suggests the need for helping professionals across disciplines to implement effective violence prevention and intervention strategies to reduce the short- and long-term social and health consequences of partner violence and child abuse.”

Dr. Coker added, “The good news is that effective intervention and prevention resources exist that can help patients and communities prevent or reduce partner violence and child abuse/neglect, and have an impact on health outcomes including type 2 diabetes.”

Research contact: @EurekAlert