Diabetes and Mental Health: A Disturbing Connection

Managing diabetes is hugely challenging for people of any age, but a new study suggests that young people may suffer all the more.

Hospitalization on the Rise

Researchers at the Health Care Cost Institute analyzed the insurance claims of over 40 million people under 65 between 2012 and 2014. Their findings were alarming: 37 of every 1,000 adults with diabetes between the ages of 19 and 25 were hospitalized for mental health or substance-abuse issues (among 19 to 25-year-olds without diabetes, that number went down to nine). The study also found a 68 percent increase in hospitalizations from 2012 to 2014.

Amanda Frost, a senior researcher at HCCI, said the findings were “definitely not something that we were expecting,” and that the HCCI plans to follow this trend more closely as they continue their research.

Possible Causes

Frost indicated to reporters that health care reform might account for the rise in hospitalizations, as young people are able to remain on their parents' insurance plans until they are 26. With insurance coverage, those suffering from drug addiction, anxiety, or other mental health problems are far more likely to seek out help. Frost also notes that in 2014 “we saw a big jump in employer-sponsored insurance coverage for those young folks... we could see an increase in young adults’ mental health hospital admissions at that time.”

But while more insurance coverage might explain the rise in reported mental health and substance issues, unreported instances are still a reality. According to Tina Drossos, a clinical psychologist at the University of Chicago Medicine Kovler Diabetes Center, depression is two to three times more common among those with diabetes than those without.

“Everybody wants to fit in, and this is something that doesn’t fit in,” she explained.

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