Uncovering Connections Between Diabetes, Mental Health

Social factors complicate both health issues

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, San Francisco Weill Institute for Neurosciences are untangling the link between mental illness and diabetes. An analysis of more than 15,000 diabetes patients within Epic found that patients with severe mental illness also had type 2 diabetes 28% of the time—more than double the general population. Prediabetes rates were also elevated, with more than half of all patients with severe mental illness presenting with blood sugar levels above the normal range.

“Antipsychotic medications prescribed for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may cause weight gain and impact cholesterol levels and insulin resistance. People with severe mental illness have more tenuous life circumstances, including food insecurity, low income, and unstable housing situations, which all increase their risk of diabetes. Stressors such as structural racism compound these problems in minorities,” says Dr. Christina Mangurian, vice chair for Diversity and Health Equity in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and lead author. “By diagnosing prediabetes early, we can help patients make lifestyle modifications or start medicine so that they don’t develop diabetes.”

Read the full article in Science Magazine. The study, published in Diabetes Care, is available at DiabetesJournals.org.