Making new friends and participating in social activities may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, a study claims.
"High risk groups for type 2 diabetes should broaden their network and should be encouraged to make new friends, as well as become members of a club, such as a volunteer organisation, sports club or discussion group," said Miranda Schram from Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
"As men living alone seem to be at a higher risk for the development of type 2 diabetes, they should become recognised as a high risk group in health care," said Schram.
"In addition, social network size and participation in social activities may eventually be used as indicators of diabetes risk," Schram said.
"We are the first to determine the association of a broad range of social network characteristics - such as social support, network size or type of relationships - with different stages of type 2 diabetes," said Stephanie Brinkhues, lead author of the study published in the journal BMC Public Health.
"Our findings support the idea that resolving social isolation may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes," said Brinkhues.
Social participation in clubs and groups was found to be beneficial.
A lack of participation in clubs or other social groups was associated with 60 per cent higher odds of pre-diabetes and 112 per cent higher odds of type 2 diabetes in women compared to those with normal glucose metabolism.
In men, lack of social participation was associated with 42 per cent higher odds of type 2 diabetes.
When looking at participants' social networks, the study found that each drop in one network member was associated with five to 12 per cent higher odds of newly diagnosed or previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes, compared to those with normal glucose metabolism.
Each 10 per cent drop in network members (one member based on an average network size of 10 network members) living within walking distance was associated with nine to 21 per cent higher odds of newly diagnosed or previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes in women.
Higher percentages of household members in a social network were associated with higher odds of newly diagnosed diabetes in women and men.
The researchers also found that in men, living alone was associated with 94 per cent higher odds of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers used data on 2,861 participants in the study of men and women aged 40 to 75 years from the southern part of the Netherlands.
Out of the total number of participants, 1,623 (56.7 per cent) had a normal glucose metabolism, 430 (15.0 per cent) had pre-diabetes, 111 (3.9 per cent) had newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes and 697 (24.4 per cent) had existing type 2 diabetes at study entry.