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Diabetes Distress Among College Students Causes Severe Depression


College students with diabetes are at increased risk of developing mental health problems along with the lower quality of life, a new study conducted by Ohio University researchers found.

Published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the survey looked at 173 people who either who worked at or attended a university and have type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

Nearly 30 percent of those with T2DM and 27 percent of those with T1DM reported high levels of diabetes distress and exhibited a lower diabetes quality of life. Diabetes distress is a condition of feeling worried and frustrated about living with diabetes that is associated with fewer self-care behaviors. About 19 percent of these students also screened positive for severe depression.

“Anyone with diabetes will experience diabetes distress at some point, and it is often triggered by major life events or upheaval,” said Elizabeth Beverly, lead researcher on this study. “It requires daily management and despite a person’s best efforts, diabetes remains a chronic, progressive disease that can decline over time.”

The study attributed high distress to many factors including adjusting to new environments after moving away from home, poor diet and managing blood glucose. The complications as a result of not managing diabetes can lead to loss of eyesight and limbs.

Researchers recommended referring patients with high distress for diabetes education including reaching out to diabetes educators, dieticians, and clinician trained in diabetes distress to treat mental health issues.

“The good news is universities are really well positioned to offer these resources. They have a wealth of specialized subject matter experts on campus, myriad lines of communication to students, faculty and staff, as well as facilities like kitchens and gyms that are ideal settings for education,” Beverly added.

A recent survey by the American Council on Education found a rise in cases of mental health illness on campuses. Anxiety and depression are the top two mental health concerns across all sectors of education.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of students seeking mental health treatment jumped from 19 to 34 percent and the number those with mental illness diagnoses rose from 22 to 36 percent.

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