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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Impact of early psychosocial factors (childhood socioeconomic factors and adversities) on future risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic disturbances and obesity: a systematic review

Teresa Tamayo1*, Christian Herder2 and Wolfgang Rathmann1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biometrics and Epidemiology, German Diabetes Center, Leibniz Center for Diabetes Research at Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany

2 Institute for Clinical Diabetology, German Diabetes Center, Leibniz Center for Diabetes Research at Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:525  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-525

Published: 1 September 2010

Abstract

Background

Psychological factors and socioeconomic status (SES) have a notable impact on health disparities, including type 2 diabetes risk. However, the link between childhood psychosocial factors, such as childhood adversities or parental SES, and metabolic disturbances is less well established. In addition, the lifetime perspective including adult socioeconomic factors remains of further interest.

We carried out a systematic review with the main question if there is evidence in population- or community-based studies that childhood adversities (like neglect, traumata and deprivation) have considerable impact on type 2 diabetes incidence and other metabolic disturbances. Also, parental SES was included in the search as risk factor for both, diabetes and adverse childhood experiences. Finally, we assumed that obesity might be a mediator for the association of childhood adversities with diabetes incidence. Therefore, we carried out a second review on obesity, applying a similar search strategy.

Methods

Two systematic reviews were carried out. Longitudinal, population- or community-based studies were included if they contained data on psychosocial factors in childhood and either diabetes incidence or obesity risk.

Results

We included ten studies comprising a total of 200,381 individuals. Eight out of ten studies indicated that low parental status was associated with type 2 diabetes incidence or the development of metabolic abnormalities. Adjustment for adult SES and obesity tended to attenuate the childhood SES-attributable risk but the association remained. For obesity, eleven studies were included with a total sample size of 70,420 participants. Four out of eleven studies observed an independent association of low childhood SES on the risk for overweight and obesity later in life.

Conclusions

Taken together, there is evidence that childhood SES is associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity in later life. The database on the role of psychological factors such as traumata and childhood adversities for the future risk of type 2 diabetes or obesity is too small to draw conclusions. Thus, more population-based longitudinal studies and international standards to assess psychosocial factors are needed to clarify the mechanisms leading to the observed health disparities.