Stressful Life Events Linked To Increased Risk of Juvenile Diabetes Interview with:
Maria Nygren
Division of Pediatrics
Linköping University, Sweden

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: What factors that cause type 1 diabetes is still unknown, but we know that environmental factors are involved besides the genetics. Since the incidence of type 1 diabetes among children have increased worldwide in recent decades, it is important to find out the reasons behind the disease to hopefully be able to prevent new cases.

We have in a prospective study of over 10000 children and their parents in Sweden investigated if psychological stress can be a risk-factor, and found that childhood experience of serious life events (such as death/illness in family, divorce, new adult/child in the family) was associated with increased risk for diagnosis of type 1 diabetes up to 14 years of age.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Both clinicians, parents, and all other who work with children should be reminded of the importance of giving support to children who are going through traumatic life events. We found in this study an increase in diabetes-risk among those children who experienced one or more serious life events, but we believe the increase in risk is due to the stress that can follow a traumatic event. Divorce, that a grandparent dies or other life events happens to most children, and it is not desirable to avoid this because it is a part of life. Instead, it is about giving all children the tools to manage these events in a functional way, not only for mental health reasons, but also to reduce risk of disease. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that even though we found an increase in risk, the absolute risk to develop type 1 diabetes is still relatively small.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: This study gives us more reason to believe that psychological stress probably play a part somewhere in the immunological process leading to the onset of type 1 diabetes. Future research should investigate more in detail where in the process stress may be important, and if other environmental factors interact with stress.


Experience of a serious life event increases the risk for childhood type 1 diabetes: the ABIS population-based prospective
cohort study

Maria Nygren in collaboration with Professor Johnny Ludvigsson and Dr Anneli Frostell and other colleagues,

Diabetologia posted online 22.01h GMT Thursday 9th April 2015 Interview with: Maria Nygren (2015). Stressful Life Events Linked To Increased Risk of Juvenile Diabetes