Diabetes substantially affects school dropout rates and wages

Research Activities, November 2012, No. 387

Diabetes affects more than 23 million people, or just under 8 percent of the United States population. The impact of the disease is immense, reveals a new study by two Yale University researchers. Rates of Type 2 diabetes, usually linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, continue to rise along with growing rates of obesity. Type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, is not considered related to diet and lifestyle and is not considered preventable.

The researchers found that the high school dropout rate was 6 percentage points higher among students with diabetes than those without the disease. Also young adults with diabetes who have one or more parents with diabetes have a reduced likelihood of attending college by four to six percentage points, even after controlling for the child's health status. What's more, a person with diabetes can expect to lose more than $160,000 in wages over his or her working life, compared to a peer without the disease.

The researchers call for in-school screening for whether the impact of diabetes on individual learning and performance begins before classic signs of clinical diabetes appear. They used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health from 1994–1995, 1996, 2001–2002, and 2008 (when respondents were an average of nearly 30 years). However, respondents were not asked to identify whether they had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a major limitation of the study. The researchers also measured the educational and labor-market outcomes for the young adult population with diabetes. Prior estimates place the total lifetime costs to society at between $243,000 and $388,000 per high school dropout. Increasing the dropout rate by 5 percentage points for the 570,000 young people with diabetes suggests a predicted increase of nearly 30,000 high school dropouts because of diabetes. That results in an estimated overall cost to society of $7–11 billion during the dropouts' lifetimes.

The researchers note that prevention of Type 2 diabetes, especially for children, might take on a renewed urgency for parents and other stakeholders once they become aware of how soon the effects of diabetes emerge and how profound the impact is later in life. This study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17589).

See "Diabetes's 'health shock' to schooling and earnings: Increased dropout rates and lower wages and employment in young adults" by Jason M. Fletcher, PhD, and Michael R. Richards, M.D., in Health Affairs 31(1), pp. 27-34, 2012.


Current as of November 2012
Internet Citation: Diabetes substantially affects school dropout rates and wages: Research Activities, November 2012, No. 387. November 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/12nov/1112RA5.html