WEDNESDAY, Aug. 22, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity is the most important risk factor for type 2 diabetes among poor people, according to a new study that also says lifestyle changes are the key to reducing diabetes in this population.
Poor people have higher rates of type 2 diabetes than more wealthy people and lifestyle-related risk factors are believed to be a major reason for that difference, according to the international team of researchers who reported the findings Aug. 22 in the BMJ.
In the study, researchers examined long-term data collected from about 7,200 British civil servants to assess the link between socioeconomic status and several major risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Socioeconomic status was assessed through participants' job position and associated education, salary, social status and level of responsibility at work.
During an average follow-up period of 14 years, more than 800 people in the study were diagnosed with diabetes. Those in the lowest job category had a 1.86 times greater risk of developing diabetes than those in the highest job category.
Health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and physical activity) and body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) accounted for 53 percent of this socioeconomic difference. BMI was the single most important factor, accounting for about 20 percent of the socioeconomic difference, the authors pointed out in a journal news release.
"Given the increasing burden of type 2 diabetes and the observed increase in social inequalities in prevalence of type 2 diabetes, further efforts to tackle these factors are urgently needed," the researchers concluded.
The U.S. National Diabetes Education Program outlines ways to prevent type 2 diabetes.