Advanced education, higher income decrease diabetes risk in women

The risk of type 2 diabetes in women decreases with advanced education and higher income, according to a research article published in PloS ONE.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined Women's Health Study data from nearly 24,000 women without diabetes. From 1993 to 2007, 1,262 women developed type 2 diabetes. After researchers adjusted for age, race and family history, the relative risk of diabetes decreased according to the participants' professional education beyond high school.

Compared to women with less than two years of health professional education (HPE), women with doctorate degrees had a 63 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For women with master's degrees, their risk was 46 percent lower while women with bachelor's degrees had a 38 percent decreased risk.

Behavioral factors at play
According to the authors of the article, “Our analysis reveals that the relationship between education and diabetes was most affected by behavioral factors. [Body Mass Index] explained the majority of the [socioeconomic status-diabetes mellitus] association explaining 32 percent of the education and 39 percent of the income effects respectively.”

Compared to women with less than two years of HPE, women with doctorates were less likely to be obese, have hypertension and be smokers. The most educated women also were more likely to exercise at least four times a week and consume daily alcohol.

The researchers found that lower educational and financial levels are linked to more risky health behaviors, lower levels of social support and more adverse physical and environmental conditions.

In particular, they theorize that poor housing and transportation options for women earning lower incomes might correlate to living in neighborhoods with more violence and a lack of sidewalks or parks. These factors can decrease the likelihood of physical activity, leading to weight gain, blood lipid problems and chronic psychological stress.

The article cites experimental evidence suggesting that these conditions over time can contribute to insulin resistance, excessive inflammation, dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and sympathetic system overdrive.

Source: PloS ONE

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