According to a study recently published in the journal Diabetologia, serious life events in childhood, such as illness or death in the family, a new child or adult in the family, divorce or separation, and constant domestic conflicts and fights in the family can triple the risk of developing Type-1 diabetes (T1D)

Even if the causes of T1D are unknown, a new research has found that both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the development of the disease. This form of diabetes is usually contacted after the body’s own immune system has attacked and destroyed most beta cells in the pancreas, the organ that is responsible with the production of insulin.

“This study concludes that the experience of a serious life event, which reasonably indicates psychological stress, during the first 14 years of life may be a risk factor for developing Type-1 diabetes,” was mentioned in the statement which accompanied the research carried out by specialists from Linkoping University in Sweden.

The study performed on 10,495 participants. At least one of four data gatherings were performed when the children were aged 2 to 14 years. From the entire sample, 58 were later diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The researchers obtained the age at diagnosis from the national register SweDiabKids.

The scientists measured family psychological stress using forms filled out by parents assessing important life events, parental worries, parenting stress and parent’s social support.

The team noted that this increase in risk for type 1 diabetes was in close relationship with serious life events in early years of life was as important as birth weight, enterovirus infection or infant nutrition factors.

Genetic predisposition remains the most important of all factors after comparing each one individually. Type 1 diabetes risk increased 12-fold, within the study, for those with a first-degree family member whom has already suffered from type 1 diabetes, which was approximately four times higher than the boost associated with serious life events.

The researchers added that “psychological stress should be treated as a potential risk factor, and should be examined further in future epidemiological studies, for instance in relation to genetic risk.”

The team identified the beta cell stress hypothesis. It suggests that the child’s experience of an important life event may contribute to beta cell stress which causes both increased insulin resistance and increased insulin demands. This is due to the physiological stress response.

Image Source: Highlands Health System