Dear Dr. Carrot: I’m Happily Married, But Diabetic. Could Divorce Help?

Published on November 15, 2017

By Dr. Won Chung, MD

As wild as it sounds, here is some very simple relationship advice for people with diabetes: Men, stay married. Women, get divorced.

As the Chief Medical Officer at Carrot Health, I don’t usually advise people on their relationships. But our team has unearthed some fascinating social findings as we began to explore the health of older diabetic consumers. Using over 5,000 different variables of clinical and consumer data on over 250 million people, Carrot Health predicts the health and financial risks of individuals. Our customers use these health and financial scores to improve health outcomes for their members and patients.

Why is relationship status important to an older diabetic? At Carrot Health, we found 6 distinctive clusters of older diabetic consumers, based on their health and financial risk. Here are the two that stand out at age 65: One group is “In-Control” with their diabetes, while the other group is “Derailing” due to the fact that the illness is taking its toll with higher complication rates and resource utilization.

A surprising finding is the social aspects of each group. We note the following:

·     While 99% of “In-Control” diabetics are married, only 38% of “Derailing” has tied the knot.

As we look out at an even older cluster at 75 years of age, one group of consumers disappears altogether:

·     Single diabetic men have almost no representation in any clusters above the age of 75.

We surmise that the single diabetic men are most likely dying of diabetic complications before they reach 75. The only diabetic men left alive are the married ones. What about older diabetic women? The healthiest cluster (by far) at age 75 are single diabetic women, who are surpassing their married sisters in all health measures. This is in contrast to the conventional wisdom that marriage is healthy for everyone!

Although I’m being facetious by suggesting that one should “treat” diabetes with a wedding or a divorce, the social determinants of health (such as gender, marriage and other consumer attributes) are not only important to health, but actually are the major components of differential health outcomes. At Carrot Health, we will continue to uncover social, economic, environmental, behavioral and purchasing insights to keep you (and your customers) healthy.

Do you or your loved one have diabetes? Does your relationship play a role in staying healthy? What other aspects of everyday behavior impact your or your loved one’s health?

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