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Higher Diabetes Risk Linked To Low-income, Resilient Black Teens

Update Date: Nov 30, 2016 09:12 AM EST

While low-income black teens who are resilient to succeed in school have higher chances of being successful in life, they also have a higher risk of becoming diabetic as adults, according to the findings of a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia in Athens.

For the study, researchers examined survey data on 1,431 black youth and 3,935 white young people. The first round of survey took place when the participants were 16 years old. They were asked questions on striving such as their aspirations for education, persistence, and avoidance of drugs and other activities that can sidetrack success. The second survey took place when the participants turned 29. They were then asked questions on college graduation, income, symptoms of depression and type 2 diabetes status.

At the start of the study, 30 percent of black teens were from homes where the income was below the federal poverty level and 15 percent of the parents were unemployed. Alternatively, 11 percent of white teens came from low-income households and 6 percent of their parents were unemployed, according to a Fox News report.

The researchers noted that at the start of the study, disadvantaged teens were less likely to graduate, more likely to have lower incomes and face depression than the more advantaged teens. When the participants turned 16, high-striving teens were more likely to get a college degree and have higher income and less likely to be diagnosed with depression. However, low-income black teens and not white teens were more likely to develop diabetes as adults.

"The reason why this happens is still very much up for debate," said Dr. Gary Maslow, a researcher at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, according to a Reuters report. "It could be related to the physical effects of chronic stress, with high-strivers from disadvantaged backgrounds facing greater stressors as they strive to succeed."

One limitation of the study was that the participants couldn't accurately recall influencing factors, such as family income, school achievements, and health. This prevented the researchers from assessing how skin-deep resilience might apply to Hispanic youth or teens from other racial or ethnic groups.

Earlier this year, researchers from the Flinders University in South Australia were able to identify the gene responsible for causing diabetes mellitus in humans. Researchers are hopeful that this discovery would be helpful in developing a treatment for diabetes due to the RCAN1 gene.

Findings of the current study were published in the online journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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