Blood sugar marriage magik

3 minute read

A relationship, even the awful niggling kind, may protect you from diabetes.

It’s no secret that people in relationships have better later-life health outcomes than singles.  

You’d expect, though, that the quality of the relationship would matter, and that a bad one might be worse than nothing. It stands to reason that the kind of couple who embarrass you by arguing in public are worse for each other’s health than the kind of couple you wish would get a room.  

In the case of blood sugar levels, however, that seems not to matter: even a toxic relationship is better than none, according to this paper in BMJ Open: Diabetes Research and Care.  

Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, specifically people aged 50-89 without prior diabetes, the team compared Hba1c readings with marital status and level of spousal support/strain.  

They were expecting to find that cohabiting relationships had a protective lowering effect on blood sugar, but that supportive relationships were more protective and that strained relationships would push glycaemic levels in the other direction.  

(They determined spousal support or strain with questions like: How much respondent feels their spouse/partner understands their feelings; how much respondent can open up to their partner if they need to talk; how much the partner lets the respondent down; how much the partner criticizes the respondent; and how much the partner gets on the respondents’ nerves.) 

The team found a 0.21% average decrease in Hba1c associated with marital status – and for context, dropping glycaemic levels by that amount population-wide “would decrease excess mortality by 25%”, they say, citing previous research.  

Yet spousal support or strain had no bearing on Hba1c.  

And while previous studies have found that men get more health benefit from being in a relationship than women, this study found no difference between sexes.  

They conclude: “Increased support for older adults who are experiencing the loss of a marital/cohabitating relationship through divorce or bereavement, as well as the dismantling of negative stereotypes around romantic relationships in later life, may be starting points for addressing health risks, more specifically deteriorating glycemic regulation, associated with marital transitions in older adults.” 

“Looking for romance, companionship and diabetes prevention?” “Come and lower my blood sugar, sugar” … The marketing for the seniors dating app writes itself.  

If you would do anything for lovely Hba1c readings, tell 

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