Several studies have linked diabetes and depression, but the connection is rarely discussed between patients, physicians and communities.
With new research and attention from both international and domestic organizations, an understanding of how the two seemingly different illnesses intersect is on the rise.
Despite the growing awareness, the recognition and treatment of diabetes-related depression in a real-world setting still has a long way to go.
Diabetes and Depression Statistics
There are 16.1 million American adults living with depression. For people between the ages of 15 and 44, depression is actually the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Medical professionals and activists are steadily combating stigma and superstition, making the general public more familiar with the ubiquity of mental struggles. But in the diabetes community, things are moving slowly.
Research shows that even though a fair portion of diabetes patients are suffering from mental illness, they’re often left undiagnosed and untreated.
- Depression is very common among people with diabetes. Studies show 1 in 4 adults with diabetes experience symptoms of depression, and both diseases occur together about twice as frequently as they would alone.
- The majority of diabetes patients with mental illness are often undiagnosed. In a 2011 study, 45 percent of cases of mental disorder and severe psychological distress go undetected among patients with diabetes.
- Most institutions aren’t treating diabetes patients with mental illness. In a 2016 study of 37 health institutions, 22 practices reported no behavioral health presence. Only 5 institutions reported an external mental health source with diabetes or chronic illness specialty. These 37 institutions are treating more than 2,000 individuals with diabetes.
- Even with treatment, 80 percent of patients may experience a depression replase within five years.
How Diabetes Affects Depression
Data shows diabetics have a higher chance of experiencing depression, and people already suffering from mental health conditions face a greater risk of developing diabetes. Symptoms of depression and anxiety have emerged as significant risk factors for the onset of type 2 diabetes. Essentially, managing diabetes is stressful.
Though women often take better care of their diabetes, any person can be affected. Here’s how diabetes and mental illness impacts people:
Depression can increase a patient’s risk of developing diabetes.
People with diabetes must constantly check their blood sugar, paying close attention to each bite of food. The continued psychological stress can actually lead to changes in lifestyle and the body.
Depression can impact how diabetes is monitored and treated.
Because diabetes is a self-managed condition, it relies heavily on adhering to strict diets and insulin schedules. Depression has physical symptoms that can cause fatigue, which lowers motivation for self-care, fitness and adherence to medication regimens.
Depression can worsen the complications of diabetes.
Mental health disorders have been shown to lower immune responses, increasing the risk of infection. For diabetics with a higher risk of amputation, infections are particularly dangerous.
Depression can affect an individual’s support network.
Increased isolation from depression can make harder to seek help, which in turns makes it difficult to reverse unhealthy habits that may put the person at risk.
Treating Diabetes and Depression
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diabetes will affect over 350 million people worldwide by 2030. As the number of individuals with diabetes rises, it’s important to integrate mental health treatment into care plans.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is now recommending a psychiatric regimen be included with all diabetic treatment plans and recommends creating a strong personal support network for mental health.
Diabetes and depression are not the mysterious conditions they once were. Through research and increased awareness, steps should be taken each day to help people with diabetes and depression lead healthy, happy lives.