People with type 1 diabetes since childhood — as well as their relatives without diabetes — are at higher risk for mood disorders like depression and anxiety, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetes Care.
There is a large amount of evidence supporting a connection between diabetes and depression, anxiety, or both — but studies have also shown potential ways to reduce this risk. Among young people with diabetes, there is evidence that having worse overall health is linked to a higher risk for depression in type 2 diabetes, but not in type 1 diabetes — with type 1 raising the risk for depression regardless of overall health. And even having prediabetes raises the risk for major depression, research shows. Mood disorders can have consequences that go beyond mental health symptoms — depression is linked to a higher death risk in people with type 2 diabetes, and anxiety disorders are linked to more hospital visits in people with type 2. But many of the same strategies that can help you manage your diabetes may also help with mood disorders — including diabetes support interventions, following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and even taking the type 2 diabetes drug metformin.
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Childhood-onset type 1 linked to increased risk of mood disorders
For the latest study, researchers looked at rates of depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders in people with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes and their families, as well as in people without type 1 diabetes. Using data from nationwide registers in Sweden, they included about 3.5 million people born between 1973 and 2007 as participants. Out of this group, 20,005 participants received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes during childhood. After adjusting for factors known to be linked to mood disorders, the researchers found that participants with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes had a 66% higher risk for mood disorders overall. They were also 85% more likely to have depression, 41% more likely to have anxiety, and 75% more likely to have stress-related disorders, as well as 30% more likely to take drugs to treat depression or anxiety.
The researchers also found that family members of people with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes had an elevated risk for mood disorders — parents were 18% to 25% more likely to have them, while siblings were 5% to 20% more likely. These risk levels appear to be proportional to how closely related family members are to people with childhood-onset type 1, the researchers noted — suggesting that a genetic risk for mood disorders may be related to the risk for type 1 diabetes, rather than type 1 actually increasing the risk for mood disorders. Of course, it’s also possible that both genetic risk and the stress of living with diabetes could explain the higher risk for mood disorders in people with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes.
“Genetic studies are warranted to further understand the [causes] of these psychiatric disorders in type 1 diabetes,” the researchers concluded. But they noted that regardless of the causes of these mood disorders, “Our findings highlight the need for psychological consulting for children and their families in diabetes care.”
Want to learn more about raising a child with type 1 diabetes? Read “The Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis,” “Type 1 Diabetes at School: What Personnel Need to Know,” and “Type 1 Diabetes and Sleepovers or Field Trips.”