A new research has found that serious life events in childhood, such as death or illness in the family, divorce/separation, a new child or adult in the family, and conflicts in the family can triple the risk of subsequently developing Type-1 diabetes (T1D).
The causes of T1D are unknown, but both genetic and environmental factors are involved. It is usually preceded by the body's own immune system attacking and killing the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
"This study concludes that the experience of a serious life event (reasonably indicating psychological stress) during the first 14 years of life may be a risk factor for developing Type-1 diabetes," said the study by researchers from Linköping University in Sweden.
Its subsample included 10,495 families participating in at least one of four data collections carried out when the children were between two and 14 years of age.
The authors found that childhood experience of a serious life event was associated with a higher risk of future diagnosis of T1D, with children experiencing such events almost three times more likely to develop T1D than those who had not even after adjustment for confounding factors such as genetic predisposition to T1D and age at entry into the study, among others.
Psychological stress should be treated as a potential risk factor, and should be examined further in future epidemiological studies, for instance in relation to genetic risk, the researchers noted.
The study was published in Diabetologia.