Depression and Diabetes

October 22, 2021

Members living with diabetes are at risk of developing several psychological conditions. Approximately 40% of people living with diabetes struggle with their mental wellbeing1. The demands of diabetes often lead to depression, and studies show there is a bidirectional relationship between diabetes and depression.

Depressive disorders are common mental disorders, and they occur two to three times higher in people with diabetes mellitus2. Depression and diabetes represent the 4th and 8th causes of disability separately, and disability occurs up to two to three times higher in people with diabetes and depression3. There are numerous considerations for people living with diabetes, such as medication management, managing multiple comorbidities, and monitoring their blood glucose. This balancing act and continually changing environment can negatively affect their emotional wellbeing. As diabetes self-management can be complicated, a multifaceted approach must optimize treatment and offset the adverse risks. The timely diagnosis and treatment of depression may improve a member’s quality of life and increase their social participation.

Mental Health Considerations

Help empower your patients to manage their own care. Patients with diabetes may feel more comfortable discussing depression and other psychological pressures with a primary care provider instead of a mental health specialist. Medication reviews and counseling on medication changes should be a part of every encounter. People who adhere to their antidepressants have better diabetes outcomes and quality of life than those with poor adherence4.

What Can You Do?

  • Identify patients with psychological and emotional needs, ask them about their emotional wellbeing, and use a validated screening tool.
  • Make a plan together for treatment options and the next steps.
  • Consider referring to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other community mental health provider, and even consider providing the member with structured education. If you are referring to a mental health provider, coordinate care together, and let the patient know you will remain active in their care.

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.

-1Kalra, S., Jena, B., & Yeravdekar, R. (2018). Emotional and Psychological Needs of People with Diabetes Learn more about third-party links. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
2C. (2018, August 06). Diabetes and Mental Health Learn more about third-party links. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
3Riddle, M., M.D. (2019, January). Diabetes Care Learn more about third-party links.
4The Endocrine Society. Antidepressants may improve outcomes in people with diabetes and depression Learn more about third-party links. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2021.