Diabetes and Depression


Diabetics are at risk of developing several psychological conditions. Approximately 40% of people living with diabetes struggle with their mental wellbeing (Kalra, 2018). 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 more often in people with diabetes mellitus but only 25% to 50% get diagnosed and treated (CDC, 2018).  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 depression (ADA, 2019).  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 members’ quality of life and increase their social participation. People who adhere to their antidepressants have better diabetes outcomes and quality of life than those with poor adherence (Science Daily, 2021).

How You Can Help

Help empower your patients to manage their own care.  Some things to consider:

  • 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.  
  • Identify patients with psychological and emotional needs, ask them about their emotional wellbeing, and use a validated screening tool.
  • Discuss treatment options and plan next steps together. 
  • If you refer to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other community mental health provider let the patient know you will coordinate care and remain active in their depression treatment.
  • You can also provide the patient with structured depression education and set goals during your appointments.


C. (2018, August 06). Diabetes and Mental Health. Retrieved September 22, 202, page last reviewed September 30 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/mental-health.html

Kalra, S., Jena, B., & Yeravdekar, R. (2018). Emotional and Psychological Needs of People with Diabetes. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6166557/

Riddle, M., M.D. (2019, January). Diabetes Care. Retrieved from https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2018/12/17/42.Supplement_1.DC1/DC_42_S1_2019_UPDATED.pdf

The Endocrine Society. "Antidepressants may improve outcomes in people with diabetes and depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210714131927.htm>.