Can stress cause type 2 diabetes?

Douglas S. Denham, DO
Family Medicine

Stress is not a known cause of Diabetes. However, certainly the effects of stress and how one manages their stress can certainly contribute to the development of diabetes over time. Those who over eat and get less exercise may be at increased risk of obesity over time and this may contribute to the development of diabetes. Stress itself can be harmful to the body over prolonged periods and may cause the development of other health issues that may lead to diabetes down the road.

After lots of studies and research, the best we can say is maybe. Stress can elevate blood glucose levels. Sometimes this is the direct effect of stress hormones. Other times, it's because stress leads people to eat more and be less active, which can also raise blood glucose levels. We know this is true for people who already have diabetes. So, it seems likely that if your blood glucose levels are already higher than normal (but not yet high enough to call it diabetes), stress could push your levels into the diabetes range.

So the stress of a serious life event, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, could play a part in developing diabetes. However, it is likely you would have eventually developed diabetes anyway as insulin resistance increased or insulin production decreased.

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