Patients who have a spouse with diabetes could have a greater risk for developing the disease, data from a recent systematic review and meta-analysis suggest.
“When we talk about family history of type 2 diabetes, we generally assume that the risk increase that clusters in families results from genetic factors. What our analyses demonstrate is that risk is shared by spouses. This underscores the effects of shared environments, attitudes and behaviors, which presumably underlie the shared risk. Our results are not the finding of a single study but rather a synthesis of the existing studies,” Kaberi Dasgupta, MD, of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and an associate professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, said in a press release.
Of 2,705 articles obtained through Medline, Embase or Scopus databases from January 1997 to February 2013, the researchers identified six articles (n=75,498 couples) for systematic review and five articles for their meta-analysis.
“We found a 26% increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes if your spouse also has type 2 diabetes,” Dasgupta said. “This may be a platform to assist clinicians to develop strategies to involve both partners. Changing health behavior is challenging and if you have the collaboration of your partner it’s likely to be easier.”
Researchers found that the association was lowest in one study that was dependent on the women’s reports of diabetes in themselves and their spouses (effect estimate: 1.1; 95% CI, 1-1.3) and highest in a study with systematic assessment of glucose tolerance (2.11; 95% CI, 1.74-5.1).
The researchers made adjustments for age and other covariates, but not BMI, and reported that the random-effects pooled estimate was 1.26 (95% CI, 1.08-1.45), according to data.
However, when BMI was included, the estimate was lower (1.18; 95% CI, 0.97-1.4), researchers wrote.
Two studies that used glucose testing to determine diabetes status appeared to have a greater risk for spousal association (OR=1.92; 95% CI, 1.55-2.37) without BMI adjustments and an increased risk when it was included (OR=2.32; 95% CI, 1.87-3.98), according to data.
Although two studies did not distinguish between the types of diabetes in adult patients, the researchers reported it would not have a significant effect on the final outcome of the study.
“Future studies need to strengthen the understanding of shared couple risk further. For example, interventions that seek to lower diabetes risk by addressing eating and physical activity behaviors and home food environments could potentially be strengthened by strategies that engage both partners,” Dasgupta said.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.