Children with type 1 diabetes and their family members are at increased risk for mental health problems

Children with type 1 diabetes and their closest family members are at increased risk of mental health problems compared to those without, according to a large study by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal Diabetic treatments. The results highlight the need for psychological counseling for children and their families in diabetes care.

Research shows that children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders and that these comorbidities can impede optimal care.

Current guidelines from the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD) recommend screening for mental health issues in children with type 1 diabetes, but do not adequately address the needs of family members, who also present an increased risk of mental health problems. Moreover, the reasons for the association of family mental health problems and type 1 diabetes are not fully understood.

“Many clinicians intuitively assume that diabetes in a child negatively affects the mental health of the patient and family members,” says Agnieszka Butwicka, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, and final lead author. of the study. “But we think the answer is not so simple. Our study indicates that there could also be a genetic component behind this association.”

The study linked some 3.5 million people born in Sweden between 1973 and 2007 with their biological parents, half-siblings and cousins. More than 20,000 people were diagnosed with childhood type 1 diabetes and had nearly doubled risk of depression and about 1.6 times higher risk of anxiety and stress-related disorders than people without the condition.

Their parents and siblings also had somewhat elevated risks for anxiety and stress-related disorders, although to a lesser degree, while their half-siblings and cousins ​​had no or only slightly higher risk. higher for certain conditions.

“These results are of great clinical relevance because they mean that therapeutic intervention should also involve close family members, not just patients,” says Agnieszka Butwicka.

Since parent-children and full siblings share more genetic material (about 50%) than half-siblings (about 25%) and cousins ​​(less than 12.5%) , the researchers say the result supports the idea that genes may be a contributing factor. to the mental health problems of type 1 diabetes.

However, since this is only an observational study, they cannot say conclusively what is causing the associations.

Further studies are needed to fully understand the underlying genetic and environmental contributions to the origin of psychiatric disorders in type 1 diabetes.”

Shengxin Liu, doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet and corresponding author of the study


Journal reference:

Liu, S. et al. (2022) Association and familial coaggregation of childhood type 1 diabetes with depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders: a population-based cohort study. Diabetic treatments.

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