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.
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