Could Education Level Indicate the Risk of Developing Diabetes?

There are many correlations with developing diabetes. Whether your family members have it, your weight, and even how much you drink. A new study published in the BMJ Open compared a group of 7,462 patients in Germany for eight years to see if their educational level may also be associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes.

Surprisingly enough (or perhaps not), there was a connection between low education and developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Most of the participants in the study were adults over the age of 50 years old who didn’t have diabetes. Over the course of the study, 718 of the participants developed the disease.

The Study Setup

Researchers had patients fill out in-depth questionnaires about their health and educational levels several times during the study. They were also given diabetes tests at the beginning and end of the study. Education was divided into three categories:

  • low: 0–9 years
  • medium: 10–12 years
  • high education: ≥13 years

According to this setup, a medium education would be close to finishing high school or receiving a high school diploma, and a high educational level would be some college to receiving a college degree.

So, What’s the Risk?

Overall, having a low level of education was associated with double the risk of developing diabetes. Of those with a high education level, 5.5% developed the disease while 10.2% of those with a low education level developed diabetes. Even having an average level of education increased your risk of diabetes slightly, as 8.4% of those with a high school education developed the disease by the end of the study.

Common sense says that not getting your college degree isn’t what’s going to give you diabetes. This correlation seems to indicate that there are underlying mechanisms at play. The researchers also noticed that those who got sick had several other previously acknowledged risk factors, including:

  • lower HDL-cholesterol levels
  • a significantly higher total/HDL-cholesterol ratio
  • alcohol drinkers; mild, moderate, or heavy
  • former or current smokers
  • low fruit consumption
  • higher median levels of CRP and fasting triglycerides

Those in the medium and higher education level groups had fewer of these risk factors. It’s possible that patients with lower education levels aren’t as exposed to information about good health and diabetes prevention. While the study didn’t look at income, there may also be a connection between poverty and poor health or lower ability to maintain good health. The researchers did suggest that programs aimed at educating the population in diabetes prevention could have a beneficial effect on long-term outcome.

[expand title=”References“]

Derailing the ‘Inevitable’ Onset of Diabetes. URL Link. Accessed May 28, 2017.

Education Achievement and Type 2 Diabetes—What Mediates the Relationship In Older Adults? Data From the ESTHER Study: a Population-Based Cohort Study. URL Link. Accessed May 28, 2017.



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