Sex Differences in the Association Between Cannabis Use and Diabetes Mellitus among U.S. Adults: The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, 2013-2018

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2022 Dec;7(6):876-881. doi: 10.1089/can.2021.0134. Epub 2022 Jan 4.


Background: Diabetes mellitus is an important public health problem in the United States, accounting for 87,647 deaths in 2019. This study aimed to assess the association between cannabis use and diabetes mellitus by sex among U.S. adults. Methods: Data were abstracted from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2013 through 2018. Cannabis use was estimated using exposure status and frequency of use. Diabetes mellitus was assessed based on physician diagnosis or laboratory results, per the American Diabetes Association guidelines. A multivariable survey logistic regression model was fitted to estimate adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and confidence intervals (95% CIs). Results: A total of 15,062 participants were included in this study. The majority were female (n=7845; 51.1%), >40 years of age (n=8564; 56.3%), non-Hispanic white (n=4873; 61.5%), with at least a college-level education (n=8239; 62.5%). Female participants who used cannabis heavily were less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes mellitus than female noncannabis users (aOR=0.49; 95% CI: 0.30-0.81; aOR=0.51; 95% CI: 0.31-0.84). However, no significant association was found for female adults who engaged in light use of cannabis (aOR=0.98; 95% CI: 0.55-1.75; aOR=1.01; 95% CI: 0.57-1.79). Among male adults, cannabis use, irrespective of the degree of exposure, was not significantly associated with diabetes mellitus (heavy users: aOR=0.89; 95% CI=0.56-1.41; light users: aOR=0.53; 95% CI=0.22-1.29). Conclusions: Heavy cannabis use is inversely associated with diabetes mellitus in females but not males. Further studies are needed to explore the sex-based heterogeneity-and individual and contextual factors responsible-in the association between cannabis use and diabetes mellitus.

Keywords: NHANES; United States; cannabis; diabetes mellitus; heterogeneity; sex; substance abuse.