How Stressful Events Could Affect Kids' Health

Type 1 diabetes risk increased dramatically in children who experienced stressful life events

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Dealing with big stressors early in life could affect more than just mental health in kids.

A new study found that serious life events may increase children’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Serious life events included illness or death in the family, divorce and other stressful challenges kids may face.

“As experience of stressful life events cannot be avoided, children and their parents should get adequate support to cope with these events to avoid their consequences, which could include medical issues,” the authors, led by Maria Nygren, a PhD student at Linköping University in Sweden, wrote.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce the normal amount of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in childhood.

For this study, Nygren and team studied how children’s health was tied to stress during their first 14 years of life.

More than 10,000 families participated in this study. The families each had at least one child between the ages of 2 and 14. Nygren and team assessed the families’ serious life events and psychological stress.

They found that type 1 diabetes risk increased when a child was exposed to a serious life event, such as a family member’s death, illness, divorce, a new member of the family and family conflicts.

Such events increased a child’s risk of type 1 diabetes threefold over children who didn't experience these events.

However, a family history of type 1 diabetes was still the strongest risk factor. Having a family member with the illness multiplied a child’s risk by 12.

Stressful life events could have health consequences, Nygren and team said. They said parents and children should receive support to help them cope with such events.

This study was published April 9 in the journal Diabetologia.

The Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Child Diabetes Foundation funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 9, 2015
Last Updated:
April 14, 2015