JDRF has responded to media reports that serious life events in childhood can triple the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
The reports claim children experiencing conflict in the family, separation and divorce, death or illness of a loved one – or even the arrival of a new child or adult in the family – face a raised risk of the condition. They are based on new research from Linköping University, Sweden.
Sarah Johnson of type 1 diabetes charity JDRF said: “What must be remembered is that it’s impossible to live a life without stress, and impossible to create a stress-free childhood for your son or daughter. There’s no family in the world that has managed to shield its children from all forms of stress.
“Yes, this study indicates that potentially, life’s inevitable stresses could hasten the development of type 1 diabetes in some people. But while this study looked at a large population of 10,495 families, in fact only 58 children went on to develop type 1 diabetes, so this means it is very hard to draw firm conclusions about how the condition develops.
“Overall, this study acts as a reminder that the mind and body are not separate and that the effects of stress on the immune system should not be forgotten when looking at how type 1 diabetes develops. But the researchers are clear that the risk of developing type 1 diabetes after a serious life event is four times smaller than the risk from having a close relative with the condition.
“The most important thing to remember for families affected by type 1 diabetes is that there is nothing they could have done to prevent their loved one’s diagnosis. Nobody should ever feel a shred of guilt. Any headlines that imply otherwise are just plain wrong. Our research is working towards a day when we can prevent type 1 diabetes before it has begun – but we are not there yet.”