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Mental Health, Diabetes, and COVID … Oh My!

February 3, 2021
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We have heard the words “unprecedented times” more in the last year than we could have ever imagined. The amount of stress that we have experienced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has way more than our typical stress baseline. The complete upheaval of our “normal” routines and increase in stress levels can be extra challenging for people with diabetes since our activity and food intake affects our blood sugars … not to mention all that extra stress and the resulting changes in sleep patterns.

There have been various studies about how the pandemic has affected glucose control of people with diabetes, but fewer on the mental effects of lockdown and the pandemic on PWD. And this is important to study, as people with diabetes already have an increased risk of depression compared to those without diabetes.1

The effects of home confinement during COVID-19 were shown to have a negative effect on mental well being, mood and feelings based on a survey of 1047 people from Europe, Africa and Asia.2 One study in India conducted focus groups and interviews among 39 young adults, and relationship disruptions, major changes in health behaviors, and the negative impact of of both affecting academic and work lives emerged as main themes.3

It is also distressing to hear about the risks of people with diabetes or other chronic diseases related to COVID-19. Many studies and reports have been published that show that people with diabetes have a higher risk of severe disease and even death. 4,5 It is not surprising that in Denmark, adults with diabetes surveyed had multiple worries about COVID-19 related to their diabetes.6 Surveys were given to 1396 adults with diabetes, 65% of participants were anxious about having a more severe case of COVID-19 infection, and 39% were worried about being characterized as a high-risk group. 6

Overall, the theme is similar to what you’ve been hearing: the COVID-19 timeline is undefined, and we know that it’s stressful and harder than normal to stay mentally well during a pandemic, especially if you have diabetes or other chronic illnesses. The great news is more and more health care providers are doing telemedicine visits, there are a lot of mental health resources online that you can take advantage of from the safety and comfort of your home. The American Diabetes Association has a directory of mental health providers who have a good understanding of diabetes. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a lot of great resources on mental illness as well. 

For more information on staying mentally well with diabetes throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond:

  1. Our article on Staying Mentally Well during COVID-19
  2. Diabetes psychologist Dr. Laura Smith’s Screenside Chat: Talking About Kids’ Mental Health
  3. Diabetes psychologist Dr. Jessie Wong’s Screenside Chat: Diabetes and Mental Wellness
  4. Diabetes psychologist Dr. Bill Polonsky’s Screenside Chat: So You’re Managing Diabetes During a Pandemic
  5. Our article Diabetes and Mental Wellness in 2021

Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335518302365
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7643949/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7789934/pdf/main.pdf
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32408118/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32711003/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7273071/