Diabetes and Income

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Diabetes is associated with a variety of inconveniences, both minor and major — from the need to check your blood glucose regularly to the potentially disabling effects of complications like peripheral vascular disease. But one negative effect of diabetes may have been overlooked until recently: its effect on your salary.

A recent study published in the journal Health Affairs probes the links between diabetes and both income and education, looking at young people in particular. According to a post on the study at the New York Times blog Well, previous studies have shown that older adults with diabetes, especially those with complications, often face difficulty getting jobs. The study’s authors wanted to see if this pattern was also true earlier in life. To do this, they tracked 15,000 people over a period of 14 years, from high school until their early 30’s. What they found was discouraging: At every point in time, people with diabetes were behind their peers in both education and income. High school students with diabetes were 6% likelier to drop out than those without diabetes. People with diabetes were less likely to go to college, and at age 30 they were 10% less likely than those without diabetes to have a job. Based on data from the study as well as outside data on salary trends, it was found that people with diabetes earn, on average, at least $160,000 less over the course of a lifetime than people without diabetes.

The researchers speculated as to how these results might have come about. It may be difficult for many people with diabetes to balance studying with the rigors of self-management, both in high school and in college. Employers may be less likely to hire people with diabetes, even in spite of nondiscrimination laws, because of concerns about productivity and health insurance costs. And people with diabetes may seek out jobs that pay less but make self-management easier, or stay at jobs to avoid disrupting their health insurance coverage when others might seek higher-paying employment. The study controlled for factors such as being overweight, family income, and several other factors that might have an effect on income independently of diabetes.

What factors do you think are most likely responsible for the lower levels of education and income seen in people with diabetes? Do you believe diabetes has affected your educational or job opportunities in a negative way? Have you experienced employment discrimination because of your diabetes? Did you ever seek out or stay at a job that paid less than you might have liked, but made your self-management tasks easier? Leave a comment below!

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