Diabetes takes a toll on mental health

The pressure of living with diabetes takes a significant toll on the emotional wellbeing of more than half of the people diagnosed with the condition.

This National Diabetes Week (July 12 to 18), Diabetes Queensland CEO Sturt Eastwood is asking the public to be aware of the extra pressure diabetes places on the 256,000 Queenslanders living with the condition.

“Research tells us that 71% of people with type 1 diabetes and 58% of people with type 2 diabetes say the condition has a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing[i]”, said Mr Eastwood. “We also know that women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to experience depression during pregnancy and after delivery.[ii]

“As a result, it’s estimated that the quality of life and mental health of more than 130,000 Queenslanders is affected by diabetes.”

The emotional burden of diabetes comes from the dozens of extra decisions people living with the condition need to make every day. The social and physical restrictions bought on by COVID-19 have added further stress and pressure.

Mr Eastwood, who lives with type 1 diabetes, said, “Once you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you’re constantly making decisions that impact your health. Life is much easier without diabetes.

“Some of the things people living with diabetes have to think about include “What are my blood glucose levels? Why have they gone high? Why are they low? Are my levels ok to drive? How many carbs are in that meal? Can I eat that piece of fruit? Why does my diabetes monitor keep beeping? And much more.”

Mr Eastwood said looking after mental health and wellbeing is an important foundation in the overall care of people living with diabetes.

“Diabetes, whether type 1, type 2, or gestational, needs to be managed daily to reduce the risk of complications. It’s not a condition that can be ignored, because diabetes never takes a holiday.”

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition that attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It cannot be prevented. It can occur at any age but is most frequently diagnosed in children and young adults. Once the condition has developed, it requires urgent medical treatment and daily insulin for the rest of your life.

Type 2 diabetes, which tends to develop progressively, can be delayed or prevented in nearly 60 per cent of cases through healthy eating and a more active lifestyle. More than 222,000 Queenslanders live with type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and puts both the mother and baby at increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. The latest statistics show there are 7,740 women living with gestational diabetes in Queensland.

Diabetes Queensland’s Psychologist Katherine Dixon said diabetes adds an extra level of stress and anxiety to the simple things many of us take for granted.

“What I regularly hear from the people I talk to is that diabetes is relentless,” Ms Dixon said.

“The pressure never goes away. Even when you’re doing all the right things for your health – eating well, exercising, taking your medication – when you have diabetes you can end up with the wrong result. It can be hard to find the right balance when your body doesn’t respond in the way you need it to.”

“When you add an extra stress such as COVID-19, it can be overwhelming. This is why I’ve seen a 30% increase in appointments since the pandemic started.”

Ms Dixon suggests five simple steps to help people with diabetes thrive, not just survive:

  1. Positivity – incorporate something that makes you feel good into your day.
  2. Engagement – be fully in the moment. When we’re in the zone we stop worrying about other things.
  3. Relationships – create connections with people who help you and make you feel good.
  4. Meaning – do something that gives you a sense of purpose.
  5. Achievement – celebrate big or small achievements each day.

The impact of diabetes on the mental and emotional health of people living with the condition is real. If you or someone you care about is struggling with diabetes, please call Diabetes Queensland on 1800 177 055 and ask to make an appointment with our Psychologist Katherine Dixon. All consultations are free and confidential.


[i] Diabetes MILES-2 2016 Survey Report which examined the psychological, social and behavioural aspects of diabetes.

[ii] A Meta-Analysis of Gestational Diabetes and Risk for Perinatal Depression, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Diabetic Medicine, Dec 27 2019.

About Diabetes Queensland

Diabetes Queensland is the only charity in the state that cares for people with all types of diabetes. We provide educational programs, support, advocacy services, and fund vital research into better treatments and the search for a cure. For more information contact Diabetes Queensland on 1800 177 055 or visit diabetesqld.org.au.

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