One partner with diabetes raises the other’s risk

"When we look at the health history of patients, we often ask about family history," says Kaberi Dasgupta. "Our results suggest spousal history may be another factor we should take in consideration." (Credit: iStockphoto)

If one spouse is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the other has an increased risk of the disease, as well, according to researchers.

“We found a 26 percent increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes if your spouse also has type 2 diabetes,” says senior author of the study Kaberi Dasgupta of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center and an associate professor of medicine at McGill University.

“This may be a platform to assist clinicians to develop strategies to involve both partners. Changing health behavior is challenging and if you have the collaboration of your partner it’s likely to be easier.”

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Dasgupta’s team, working in the division of clinical epidemiology, wanted to see if diabetes in one partner could lead to diabetes in the other partner because many of the risk behaviors that lead to diabetes, such as poor eating habits and low physical activity, could be shared within a household.

Researchers analyzed results from six selected studies that were conducted in different parts of the world and looked at key outcomes such as age, socioeconomic status, and the way in which diabetes was diagnosed in 75,498 couples.

Most of the studies used in the meta-analysis relied on health records, which may not always accurately record diabetes. Those that used direct blood testing suggested that diabetes risk doubles if your partner has diabetes. They found a strong correlation with pre-diabetes risk.

“When we look at the health history of patients, we often ask about family history,” says Dasgupta. “Our results suggest spousal history may be another factor we should take in consideration.”

According to Dasgupta, spousal diabetes is also a potential tool for early diabetes detection. “The results of our review suggest that diabetes diagnosis in one spouse may warrant increased surveillance in the other,” she says.

“Moreover, it has been observed that men are less likely than women to undergo regular medical evaluation after childhood and that can result in delayed diabetes detection. As a result, men living with a spouse with diabetes history may particularly benefit from being followed more closely.”

The Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Canadian Diabetes Association supported the study, which appears in BMC Medicine.

Source: McGill University