Background: Social isolation is associated with type 2 diabetes (T2DM), but it is unclear which elements play a crucial role in this association. Therefore, we assessed the associations of a broad range of structural and functional social network characteristics with normal glucose metabolism, pre-diabetes, newly diagnosed T2DM and previously diagnosed T2DM.
Methods: Participants originated from The Maastricht Study, a population-based cohort study (n = 2861, mean age 60.0 ± 8.2 years, 49% female, 28.8% T2DM (oversampled)). Social network characteristics were assessed through a name generator questionnaire. Diabetes status was determined by an oral glucose tolerance test. We used multinomial regression analyses to investigate the associations between social network characteristics and diabetes status, stratified by sex.
Results: More socially isolated individuals (smaller social network size) more frequently had newly diagnosed and previously diagnosed T2DM, while this association was not observed with pre-diabetes. In women, proximity and the type of relationship was associated with newly diagnosed and previously diagnosed T2DM. A lack of social participation was associated with pre-diabetes as well as with previously diagnosed T2DM in women, and with previously diagnosed T2DM in men. Living alone was associated with higher odds of previously diagnosed T2DM in men, but not in women. Less emotional support related to important decisions, less practical support related to jobs, and less practical support for sickness were associated with newly diagnosed and previously diagnosed T2DM in men and women, but not in pre-diabetes.
Conclusion: This study shows that several aspects of structural and functional characteristics of the social network were associated with newly and previously diagnosed T2DM, partially different for men and women. These results may provide useful targets for T2DM prevention efforts.
Keywords: Pre-diabetes; Prevention; Social network; Social support; Type 2 diabetes.