Workers With Diabetes Could Face a Higher Risk of Depression

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS


People with diabetes have an extra task every day of their life, monitoring their blood sugar levels. A blood sugar level that is too low or too high can be a dangerous situation. Diabetes can also lead to other health issues.

Diabetes and Depression

A recent study has shown that employed people with diabetes have a 30% higher rate of experiencing depression than coworkers who do not have diabetes. Researchers looked at data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 2014-2018.

Around 85,000 employed people in the survey reported having diabetes. Out of that group, 17.4% said that they had experienced depression, which is a 30% increase over workers who do not have diabetes.

Out of the group with diabetes, people with an additional chronic health issue were three times more likely to face depression than others.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which a person’s blood sugar (glucose) level is too high. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body. It comes from the foods that are eaten and stored long-term in the liver.

The liver stores glucose as glycogen. When glucose levels are low, the liver breaks down stored glycogen into glucose and moves it into the bloodstream.

When glucose levels are high, like after eating, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin to move the glucose into cells for energy.

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes, type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1

This used to be called juvenile diabetes. This is because it usually appears in childhood or adolescence. However, It can also happen to adults.

With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells called islets in the pancreas. When a significant amount of islets are damaged, the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream.

Too much glucose in the bloodstream causes life-threatening complications.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often appear suddenly:

  • Extreme hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Bed-wetting in children who did not previously wet the bed at night

There is no cure for diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form diagnosed. Type 2 is when the cells in the body do not respond well to insulin, and glucose cannot enter the cells. It can also happen if the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Both of those conditions can happen at the same time.

Symptoms of type 2 can develop slowly. Many people do not realize they have diabetes for years. Symptoms can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

Treatment for type 2 diabetes can be lifestyle changes like eating healthy and exercising regularly. In some cases, that is not enough, and a person may need medication to keep their blood sugar at a normal level.

Medications for type 2 diabetes can include:

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in women who are pregnant and did not already have diabetes. During pregnancy, the body makes more hormones, goes through many changes, and becomes insulin resistant. This is similar to type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes usually has less symptoms than other types of diabetes. Testing is the only way to know for sure. Half of all women who have gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

Treatment for gestational diabetes includes following a healthy eating plan and physical activity. If that is not enough to keep blood sugar levels where they should be, a pregnant woman may need medication to help.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that involves significant sadness and a loss of interest. It is different than feeling sad for a little while or a day. It has episodes of symptoms lasting at least two weeks or longer.

Causes of Depression

The cause of depression is not always clear. There are several factors that can contribute to the issue.

  • Biological differences, people with depression have physical changes in their brain.
  • Hormone changes may trigger depression. This can happen with pregnancy or after birth. This can happen during menopause or if someone has thyroid issues.
  • Genetics can play a role in depression. People who have relatives with depression may be more likely to experience it at some point in their lifetime.


Depression symptoms range from mild to severe. Symptoms must be present for at least two weeks to be diagnosed. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions or concentrating.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

It is important to note that some medical conditions can have the same symptoms as depression. Vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, brain tumors, or other medical conditions should also be checked based on your doctor’s workup.

Treatments for Depression

Depression treatment can look different for each person. Talking to a therapist and learning new coping skills can help many people. Different kinds of therapy are also available, including group or family sessions.

If therapy alone is not making enough of a difference, medications may help. Some depression medications are:

Do You Need Help Paying for Medications?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition. Depression may also be a life-long condition. Medications can be expensive, especially if someone needs more than one every month.

At The Rx Advocates, we understand how difficult it can be to afford the medications you need. We want to help. We work with Patient Assistance Programs to help people get name-brand medications for only our low monthly fee. Please contact us today for more information.

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