Severe Mental Illness Worsens Diabetes

According to this study carried out by the University of California, individuals suffering from severe mental illness stand the highest chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. The Hispanic and African-Americans have much higher risks than any other race.

Worrying Figures

The researchers reported that over 15,000 patients suffering from severe mental illness were assessed out of whom 28.1% were found to be Type 2 diabetic. This was contrasted against 12.2% of the general population that previous studies have shown to have the disease.

Racial minorities, which are known to have higher cases of severe mental illnesses, recorded varying cases for Type 2 diabetes as shown below:

  • Hispanics – 36.9 percent
  • African-Americans – 36.3 percent
  • Asians – 30.7 percent

This can be compared to the whites who recorded a rate of 25.1 percent.

This study was led by Christina Mangurian and borrowed several insights from her previous study, which attempted to find the link between severe mental illness and other diseases such as low rates of HIV testing, low rates of diabetes testing and women who rarely screen for cervical cancer.

Mangurian explained that “Antipsychotic medications prescribed for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may lead to an increase in one’s weight and also affect your insulin resistance and cholesterol levels.”

The study findings were published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Why Mental Illness Makes One Diabetic

In addition, individuals suffering from severe mental illness tend to live under tenuous circumstances, including low income, food insecurity and poor housing situations, factors that increase one’s risk of diabetes.

Prediabeteses are individuals that have elevated sugar levels and can potentially proceed to become diabetic if preventive measures are not taken. The study established that the Prediabeteses are more in people with mental illness than the general population. Only a third of the general population could be identified as Prediabetes as opposed to more than half of those with severe illnesses.

The minorities were found to be the ones commonly impacted by the condition which could occur from as young as 20 years.

A database containing health information of various patients was used in conducting this study.

One of the study’s senior authors Julie Schmittdiel explained that they successfully made use of Kaiser Permanente’s vast electronic health record data to shed more light on the various challenges that diabetes places on people with severe mental illnesses. “We were able to get insights into how we can deal with the problem of age and racial disparities in the high-risk populations,” she added.

Mangurian added that their findings are a clear picture as to why we ought to screen all patients with severe mental illness for diabetes.

“This is a golden opportunity for each and every one of us to change our approach in how we screen and implement preventive strategies for diabetes.”