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Type 1 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of mental illness in patients and families

Type 1 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of mental illness in patients and families



(From left) Agnieszka Butwicka and Shengxin Liu. Photo: Gunilla Sonnebring.

Many people in diabetes care assume that childhood diabetes negatively affects the mental health of both the patient and family members. But we don’t think the answer is that simple. Our study suggests that there may also be a genetic component behind this link, he says Agnieszka Potoicasearch assistant at Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet and senior author of the study.

Almost doubled the risk of depression

In this study, data recorded from about 3.5 million people born in Sweden between 1973 and 2007 were compared with their biological parents, siblings, siblings, and first cousins. More than 20,000 people have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in childhood.

These people had, on average, nearly twice the risk of depression and about 1.6 times the risk of anxiety and stress-related problems than those without the disease. Their parents and full siblings were at greater risk of anxiety and stress-related problems, albeit to a lesser degree, while their full siblings and cousins ​​had no or only slightly increased risk of psychological problems.

—These findings are of high clinical importance because they mean that curative treatment and other efforts should also include close family members, not just patients, says Agnieszka Potwika.

Children, parents, and full siblings share genes (about 50 percent) more than half of siblings (about 25 percent) and cousins ​​(less than 12.5 percent). Given that the connections were stronger for fathers, children, and siblings, the study results suggest that genes may be a contributing factor to mental illness in type 1 diabetes, according to the researchers. However, they note that they can only speculate about the cause of the associations given the observational study design.

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More studies are needed to understand how genes and environment contribute to mental illness in type 1 diabetes, he says Shengxin Liua doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet and corresponding author of the study.

The research was funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Strategic Research Area of ​​Neuroscience (StratNeuro) at Karolinska Institutet, Queen Silvia’s Jubilee Fund, Stockholm District, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under a Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant. Some study authors reported receiving funding and compensation from private companies outside the scope of their current business. One of the authors works for Johnson & Johnson.


Correlations and co-familial clustering of childhood type 1 diabetes with depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders: a population-based cohort study. Shengxin Liu, Marica Leone, Jonas F. Ludvigsson, Paul Lichtenstein, Brian D’Onofrio, Ann-Marie Svensson, Soffia Gudbjörnsdottir, Sarah E. Bergen, Henrik Larsson, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Agnieszka Butwicka, Diabetes careonline 1 Aug 2022, doi: 10.2337/dc21-1347.