Type 2 diabetes in men: How YOUR partner’s health could increase risk

However, now experts have revealed how family members can also affect risk.

A study has found in people aged 50 or over, having an obese wife substantially increases a man’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It was the first study to investigate the sex-specific effect of spousal obesity on diabetes risk.

Experts said obesity, or type 2 diabetes in one partner cold lead to type 2 diabetes in the other, due to shared behaviour in couples - such as poor eating habits and little physical activity.

People who are obese, or have a family history of type 2 diabetes are already known to have a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Emily Burns, Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK, said: “This interesting study raises questions about how our partners’ health and lifestyle might influence our own, but there is more work to be done.

“It’s important that we take steps to manage our own individual risk of type 2 diabetes, and support and encourage our loved ones to do the same.

“We recommend maintaining a healthy weight through eating a balanced diet and taking regular physical activity to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Adam Hulman from Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues looked at the link of spousal diabetes and obesity with the risk of developing  type 2 diabetes in 3,650 men and 3,478 women - aged 50 or older - from a study of people living in England.

Participants were interviewed every 2.5 years during 1998 to 2015, and incidence of type 2 diabetes was identified from self-reports or clinical examination.

The results were adjusted for potential factors that might contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and an individual’s own obesity level.

Over the follow-up of 11.5 years, the new case rate for type 2 diabetes was 12.6 per 1,000 people per year among men and 8.6 among women.


The researchers found no statistically significant indication overall that having a spouse with diabetes increases diabetes risk.

However, further analysis showed that men with an obese wife were significantly more likely to develop type 2 diabetes during follow-up.

Per 5 kg/m2 higher BMI in his wife, the husband’s type 2 diabetes risk was 21 per cent higher, when accounting for the man’s own BMI. 

Conversely, women with an obese husband had no additional risk beyond that of their own obesity level.

In a further study, the research team examined whether the development of obesity with age was different for people with and without a spouse with type 2 diabetes in 7,187 men and women.

The analysis was restricted to opposite-sex couples.


Researchers said practically everyone gets fatter up to age 70, but results showed that in people over 55, individuals living with a spouse with T2D had much higher levels of obesity compared to those with no spousal diabetes.

The authors of the study said: “This is the first study investigating the sex-specific effect of spousal obesity on diabetes risk.

“Having an obese wife increases a man's risk of diabetes over and above the effect of his own obesity level, while among women, having an obese husband gives no additional diabetes risk beyond that of her own obesity level.

“Our results indicate that on finding obesity in a person, screening of their spouse for diabetes may be justified.”

They add: “Recognising shared risk between spouses may improve diabetes detection and motivate couples to increase collaborative efforts to eat more healthily and boost their activity levels.

“Obesity or type 2 diabetes in one spouse may serve as a prompt for diabetes screening and regular weight checks in the other. In particular, men whose wives are obese may benefit from being followed more closely.”

Dr Emily Burns added: “If you are concerned about your risk, speak to a healthcare professional and visit diabetes.org.uk/knowyourrisk.”

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