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New research about people living with type 1 and 2 diabetes has outlined the scale of mental health problems affecting those living with the condition, with over half of diabetic people having been treated for mental health issues.

The study, ‘A Darker Side to Diabetes,’ was carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Ieso Digital Health and looked at whether people with diabetes are more likely to experience mental health problems compared with the general population.

At present, around 700 people get diagnosed with diabetes every day in the UK which is the equivalent of one person every two minutes.

Since 1996, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has more than doubled from 1.4 million to almost 3.7 million.

According to the NHS, around five million people are predicted to have diabetes by the year 2025.

The research found that 75 percent of young adults (16-34) believe that their mental health has been negatively affected by their diabetes.

Almost half said that more awareness of diabetes-specific mental health issues would help prevent high levels of stress, anxiety and depression and other mental health problems associated with having diabetes.

Furthermore, 43 percent believe that mental health education and assessment should be integrated into ongoing diabetes healthcare.

The Ieso study also discovered that over half of patients with diabetes have sought treatment for stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems.

Additionally, almost half of the people surveyed believed that better awareness would help detect stress and mental health issues, while 43 percent felt that discussions of mental health within diabetes-specific appointments would help and that clearer advice from medical bodies would help.

Sarah Bateup, Chief Clinical Officer at Ieso Digital Health, commented: “Mental health should be considered an integral part of on-going diabetes care.

“We need to ensure a multifaceted approach including comprehensive assessment for mental health problems, educating patients to recognise stress and mental health problems, and encouraging self‐care.”

According to Ieso Digital Health, mental health issues can make it more difficult for diabetes sufferers to alter their diet and lifestyle to comply with medical treatment programmes.

Mental health issues linked to diabetes include feelings of loss, stress, anger, panic attacks, mood disorders, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

A depressed person is less likely to adhere to their diabetes medication or monitoring regimens which are necessary for effective management of diabetes, resulting in poor glycaemic control.

Phobic symptoms or anxieties related to self-injection of insulin and self-monitoring of blood glucose are common, resulting in further emotional distress.

In addition, stress and depression can also elevate blood glucose levels, even if medication is taken regularly.

Sarah continued: “Providing effective mental health interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help patients to address the emotional and behavioural aspects of living with a life-long condition such as diabetes.”

Commissioned in April 2018, Ieso Digital Health’s study involved interviews from more than 500 people diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, aged 16 years or older.

Ieso Digital Health specialises in online mental healthcare in the UK with the aim of making high-quality cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) accessible, accountable and affordable; the service is available through the NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

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