Aims: To examine whether parents who lost a child have an increased risk of hospitalization because of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
Methods: We identified all parents who lost a child in Denmark from 1980 to 1996 (stress exposed), and compared them with parents randomly selected from all other parents in the country at that time without such a bereavement. Fifteen non-bereaved families were matched to each bereaved family for family size and the age of the children. First hospitalizations for Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes were monitored in these two groups up to 18 years after the bereavement. There were 21 062 parents in the bereaved cohort and 293 745 parents in the non-bereaved cohort. The study was based upon linkage of several national registers, and first-time hospitalization with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2) was the end point.
Results: Five hundred and fifty-one cases were hospitalized because of Type 1 diabetes and 1569 cases because of Type 2 diabetes. There was a 29% higher risk of hospitalization because of Type 1 diabetes [95% CI -5 to 75%; corresponding to a relative risk (RR) of 1.29; 95% CI 0.95-1.75] and a 44% higher risk of hospitalization because of Type 2 diabetes (95% CI 21-71%; corresponding to an RR of 1.44; 95% CI 1.21-1.71) in the bereaved cohort. The high risk of hospitalization because of Type 2 diabetes following bereavement was only statistically significant for mothers.
Conclusions: Psychological stress may be a contributing cause of, or have prognostic importance for, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but a statistically significant association was only seen for Type 2 diabetes.