After almost 15 years of research, Yale scientists found that diabetes causes substantive nonmedical consequences.
In a study published in this month’s issue of the journal Health Affairs, researchers from the School of Public Health found that people suffering from diabetes face significant nonmedical consequences, including higher high school dropout rates and lower employment rates. These findings could influence future public health policies and clinical practices related to diabetes, the study’s authors say.
“Our results highlight two relatively understudied aspects of diabetes — its educational consequences, and the fact that they accumulate as early as adolescence and young adulthood,” said Jason Fletcher, professor at the School of Public Health and the study’s lead author.
The report states that the high school dropout rate for young adults with diabetes is 6 percent higher than with those without the disease. The team also found that on average a person with diabetes earns $160,000 less than a person without diabetes over the course of his or her working life. By age 30, people with diabetes are 10 percent less likely to be employed than their peers without diabetes. The study does not distinguish between Type I and Type II diabetes, Fletcher said.
The researchers tracked 15,000 young people over a period of 14 years — from their high school years to their mid-30s — before arriving at these conclusions. Fletcher said that the nonmedical consequences of diabetes, mainly its educational consequences, are not commonly studied.
Meredith Hawkins, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., who heard one of the study’s authors present the work at the publication release conference, said the trends found by the study could have been a result of its subjects’ difficult economic and social situations — which may have made them more likely to become diabetic — rather than the disease itself.
Fletcher said that although there might be factors other than diabetes to account for their results, the team’s research was limited to examination of patients with similar health backgrounds who attended the same high school, minimizing the effect of other factors.
“Our findings suggest that researchers, clinicians and policy makers may need to consider the early, nonmedical consequences of diabetes in constructing new policies and clinical practice,” said Michael Richards SPH ’16, one of the paper’s authors.
Approximately 16 percent of the New Haven population has diabetes, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement at the School of Public Health and the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation.
Correction: Jan. 17 A previous version of this article misstated the name of Health Affairs, the journal in which the study was published. Also, only one of the study’s authors was present at the publication release conference.