Researchers found that a person is at 26 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if their spouse also has the condition.
The team from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal has found, through combined analyses of several studies, evidence that spousal diabetes is a diabetes risk factor.
"We found a 26 per cent increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes if your spouse also has type 2 diabetes," said senior author of the study, Dr Kaberi Dasgupta, researcher at the Research Institute of the MUHC and an associate professor of medicine at McGill University.
"This may be a platform to assist clinicians to develop strategies to involve both partners. Changing health behaviour is challenging and if you have the collaboration of your partner it's likely to be easier," Dasgupta said.
Researchers wanted to see if diabetes in one partner could lead to diabetes in the other partner because many of the risk behaviours that lead to diabetes, such as poor eating habits and low physical activity, could be shared within a household.
Researchers analysed results from six selected studies that were conducted in different parts of the world and looked at key outcomes such as age, socioeconomic status and the way in which diabetes was diagnosed in 75,498 couples.
Most of the studies used in the meta analysis relied on health records which may not always accurately record diabetes, researchers said.
Those that used direct blood testing suggested that diabetes risk doubles if your partner has diabetes. A strong correlation with pre-diabetes risk was also found.
"When we look at the health history of patients, we often ask about family history. Our results suggest spousal history may be another factor we should take in consideration," said Dasgupta.
"The results of our review suggest that diabetes diagnosis in one spouse may warrant increased surveillance in the other," she said.
"Moreover, it has been observed that men are less likely than women to undergo regular medical evaluation after childhood and that can result in delayed diabetes detection. As a result, men living with a spouse with diabetes history may particularly benefit from being followed more closely," she said.
The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine.