Diabetes and Income

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!

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • BobS

    Very interesting article, definitely concur and hardly seen anyone commenting on it. For me, through both staying at a job I’d have otherwise have left through stagnation, and restructuring my contract to make changes which are directly to aid day to day diabetes management, I’ve sacrificed a very significant sum in the past five years since diagnosis.

    However, worth remembering this isn’t all negative. In many respects, sacrificing “career” for a bit more time, flexibility to plan exercise more religiously and eat better, cut down on stress etc has been a huge improvement, which I might have always deferred without the shock of type 1 diagnosis.

  • Stoyan

    Yeah – as long as diabetes continues to be a lifelong condition, it will affect every area of life, career included. I am in the “simply happy to have a job” stage right now, but in the future if I have an option diabetes and its management will have to be considered.

  • Kim

    I’m glad this article was published. I’d experienced biasing firsthand about 20 years ago at a bank. I was asked many questions when applying for a bank loan. When the rep asked me did I have diabetes, my response was “yes”. My repayment loan rate per month was increased from $150 to $200 for example. I had asked why for the rate increase, and the rep response was “You may not live long enough or be too sick to repay the loan.” This is pure IGNORANCE. Would the rep asked a client if they were a substance abuser, have other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer or high cholesterol? Not!

  • Rick

    Very good topic to discuss. I have been a high school teacher and coach. After getting diabetes I found that the schedule for a teacher and coach was devastating for me. Standing and talking all day with little time to check myself, going out of town to away games which allowed little or no exercise and stopping with the team at McDonalds for dinner was killing me. I have had to give up coaching and I am now still having a hard time contolling things with the relentless schedule of teaching seven clases a day. Not sure what I will do if I can’t maintain the pace of my current job as I get older.

  • Arlene Walker

    I think one of the worst is job discrimination due to diabetes. Employers hear diabetes and automatically think insulin and everything that goes with insulin. They don’t hear or understand Type 1 or Type 2. I will admit that even I didn’t really know there was a difference until my husband became Type 2 in 2007. But when a person tells you something like I am a Type 2 Diabetic ask questions, find out what that means and be willing to work around any problems they might have. You just might get the best employee in the world.