Researchers are recommending that assessment of suicide risk be standard in children with type 1 diabetes. A new study has shown that the risk is higher in this group for both suicide and mental health problems.
The study, published in Diabetes Care, was performed in Quebec, Canada. The final analysis included 3,544 adolescents with type 1 that had been diagnosed between ages 1 and 15, as well as over 1 million adolescents without diabetes.
The research found that young people between age 15 and 25 are 325%more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, as well as 133% more likely to have a mood disorder such as depression.
Young people with type 1 were also nearly twice as likely to visit a psychiatrist, and were 29% more likely to be diagnosed with any kind of psychiatric disorder. These mental health issues can in turn keep young people from managing their disease, leading to blood sugar fluctuations, complications, and even hospitalizations.
Why the correlation?
The daily toll of injections and managing blood sugar can be hard on a young adult. The problem is especially relevant in young adults with type 1 who are transitioning out of a pediatrician’s care and into being adults who are more responsible for their own care.
The degree of psychological problems can also depend upon age of diagnosis. It’s harder being diagnosed in the middle of one’s adolescent/teen years as opposed to being diagnosed at a very young age where you are used to living with diabetes. Age of diagnosis was a limitation of the study that was not taken into account. Another limitation that the study didn’t address was the level of diabetes distress present.
As of now, there is typically no psychosocial report as part of total treatment by an endocrinologist or pediatrician. A person’s mental health should be taken into account, especially with young adults and teens with type 1.
The researchers came to the conclusion that, “[T]he assessment of suicidal/death ideations is an urgent need in all youth and young adults with type 1 diabetes. Using a standardized framework, assessing suicide risk as part of routine pediatric type 1 diabetes care is feasible.”
What is type 1 diabetes?
Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes affects more than 3 million Americans. Only 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, but the disease is a chronic illness which requires life-long management. The average age of diagnosis is 14, though a type 1 diabetes diagnosis can happen as early as age 5 and as late as age 40 or older. Type 1 diabetes can be caused by genetics or a virus that attacks the pancreas, and is sometimes accompanied by other autoimmune diseases.
How type 1 diabetes works
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas creates little to no insulin for the body to convert sugar into energy. When this happens, sugar builds up in the bloodstream and can damage blood vessels throughout the body. Keeping blood sugar within a healthy range is crucial for type 1 diabetes, and people with type 1 diabetes have to take daily insulin through injections or a pump.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
The following are common symptoms of type 1 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Blurred vision
If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor about testing for diabetes.