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Diabetics more likely to die from suicide, accidents and alcohol

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Diabetes patients are more likely to die from suicide, accidents and alcohol-related causes, according to a new study, which suggests this could be linked to poor mental health.

The nationwide study from Finland, published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, provides some evidence that the mental burden of living with diabetes may have a serious impact.

“We know that living with diabetes can lead to a mental-health strain”

Leo Niskanen

People with diabetes are known to be at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer and kidney disorders, which can lead to earlier death.

More recently diabetes has been linked to an increased risk of depression, but the impact of poor mental health on those with the condition has not been fully explored.

For the new study, researchers from the University of Helsinki and Tampere and Helsinki University Hospital, assessed suicides, alcohol-related and accidental causes of death among more than 400,000 people with or without diabetes.

They found people with diabetes were much more likely to die from alcohol-related factors, accidents or suicide, especially those that required regular, self-administered injections of insulin.

Study lead Professor Leo Niskanen said the burden of living with and treating your own diabetes could place a severe strain on people’s mental health.

“Having to monitor their glucose levels and inject themselves daily with insulin has a huge impact on daily life; simply eating, moving and sleeping all affect blood glucose levels,” he said.

“This strain combined with the anxiety of developing serious complications like heart or kidney disease may also take their toll on psychological well-being,” he added.

“There are many ways that these problems can be managed, provided they are communicated”

Leo Niskanen

Professor Niskanen said the study’s findings emphasised the need for robust emotional and psychological support for people with diabetes.

“If they feel like they are under a heavy mental burden or consider that their use of alcohol is excessive, they should not hesitate to discuss these issues with their primary care physician,” he said.

He added: “There are many ways that these problems can be managed, provided they are communicated.”

The team now plans to carry out a more in depth investigation of the factors underpinning their findings to help identify strategies to avoid future deaths.

This will include looking at the influence of drugs such as antidepressants, incidence of complications such as low blood sugar and the socioeconomic status of patients, they said.

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