June 4, 2013

Caution: Isolation May be Hazardous to Your Health

There are a lot of things that are bad for our health. Some have waring labels. Cigarettes for example, everyone know they are bad for you. So much so that they come with a waring label. One of those labels says:

Ya know what else, “Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health?”

Other people.
Not being isolated. 

I am not making this up. In her May 13, 2013 article in the New Republic Judith Shulevitz writes extensively about isolation including how it can affect people at biological levels.

How much so? Julianne Holt-Lunstad mail, Timothy B. Smith , J. Bradley Layton conclude their paper, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk, saying:
Data... Indicate(s) that individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships. The magnitude of this effect is comparable with quitting smoking and it exceeds many well-known risk factors for mortality (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity).
People living with diabetes know that it can set them apart, make them feel alone. The social stigmas associated with it, that it diabetes the fault of those who have it, doesn’t help.

In Twenty-First Century Behavioral Medicine: A Context for Empowering Clinicians and Patients With Diabetes, David Marrero, writes that, "Diabetes is a challenging condition, both to live with and to treat.” He outlines roles for both family and wider communities in supporting self motivated change by individuals to better live with diabetes.

Marrero makes the need of support starkly clear observing that social isolation has effects on mortality, at the individual level, comparable to smoking cigarettes. Not having a social support system can be as bad for our health as smoking.

Marrero only briefly refers to online opportunities for individuals to find peer support. Gilbert et al more clearly define peer support in their paper, Online Communities Are Valued by People With Type 1 Diabetes for Peer Support: How Well Do Health Professionals Understand This? They offer a wide discussion of the value that diabetes patients see in online communities. They also outline some of the concerns that health professionals have of patients using the internet.

Not all people with diabetes have family or a community that understand diabetes. Gilbert suggests peer to peer patient support is an additional avenues of support that can be effective.

Community helps. Don’t let diabetes isolate us.

I am not suggesting that community takes the place of quitting smoking, being active or loosing weight. I am suggesting that it is part of the mix, as important as other health risks and we need to say so.

Our insurance will not pay for social relationships, our doctor can’t prescribe anti isolation medications but we can create community. Community that is good not only for our individual health but the well being of other too.

Community is a win - win.

Maybe we need labels on strips an insulin.

WARNING: Joining Diabetes Communities Now 
Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.


Judith Shulevitz, The Lethality of Loneliness, New Republic, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113176/science-loneliness-how-isolation-can-kill-you#

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, J. Bradley Layton, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316

David G. Marrero, Jamy Ard, Alan M. Delamater, Virginia Peragallo-Dittko, Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis, Robin Nwankwo, and Edwin B. Fisher, Twenty-First Century Behavioral Medicine: A Context for Empowering Clinicians and Patients With Diabetes: A consensus report, Diabetes Care February 2013 36:463-470; doi:10.2337/dc12-2305, http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/2/463.extract

Kate Gilbert,  Sarity Dodson, Marie Gill, and Rosemary McKenzie, Online Communities Are Valued by People With Type 1 Diabetes for Peer Support: How Well Do Health Professionals Understand 
This?, Diabetes Spectrum August 2012 25:180-191; doi:10.2337/diaspect.25.3.180 http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/25/3/180.full


  1. Any chance your post can get into the hands of every newly diagnosed patient? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow! That's fascinating!

    Thanks for sharing!