A ‘Health Shock’ for Youth with Diabetes

While the financial impact of diabetes on the delivery of medicine and related health care is a popular area of research, the nonmedical implications for young adults “have gone virtually unexplored,” lead author Jason M. Fletcher, Ph.D.,  associate professor of public health at Yale University, declared in the January 2012 issue of Health Affairs.

Jason M. Fletcher, Ph.D./Photo courtesy Yale University

According to results from a study Dr. Fletcher conducted with his associate Michael R. Richards, a doctoral candidate at Yale, the nonmedical consequences of diabetes can occur early in life and are associated with certain adverse effects. For example, a person with diabetes can expect to earn significantly less income over his or her working life compared with one who does not have the disease. Diabetes patients also more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to attend college.

The study was based on a survey of nearly 15,000 youth in grades 7-12 who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in 1994 and 1995 and who completed follow-up surveys in 1996, 2001/2002, and in 2008, when most were about 30 years old (Health Aff. 2012; 31:27-34). The researchers found that the high school dropout rate among people with diabetes was 6% higher than the rate among people without the disease. In addition, people with diabetes were 8%-13% less likely to attend college compared to their peers without the disease. Interestingly, having a parent with diabetes lowered the chances of attending college by another 4%-6%.

Over a 40-year work lifetime, people with diabetes can expect to earn $160,000 less in wages compared with people who do not have the disease. The researchers termed the double-whammy of adverse impact on schooling and wages as a “health shock” to people with diabetes.

“These results highlight the urgency of attacking this growing health problem, as well as the need for measures such as in-school screening for whether diabetes’s impact on individual learning and performance begins before the classic manifestations of clinical diabetes appear,” the researchers concluded.

— Doug Brunk

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2 Comments

Filed under Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine News, Pediatrics, Primary care

2 responses to “A ‘Health Shock’ for Youth with Diabetes

  1. lovehatediabeties

    This is a quite negative post. Reading this as a diabetic makes me feel horrible. BUT, I’m happy to say I’ve been very successful in my life (including graduating in the top 10% of high school and still attending college ahead of schedule by half a semester). So being a successful diabetic is not impossible.

  2. dbrunk

    Thank you for your comment. The purpose of this article was to report the main findings of this specific study, not to imply that people with diabetes cannot be successful. It sounds like you are a real go-getter and a model for others to follow. I wish you all the best.

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