Doctor vaccinating a child

A Swedish study into teenagers with type 1 diabetes shows that the condition is linked with higher risks of psychiatric disorders and suicide attempts.

The researchers reviewed 17,122 children with type 1 diabetes and 18,847 siblings that were born between 1973 and 2009. The results were compared against matched control subjects without a direct connection with type 1 diabetes.

Children with type 1 diabetes study results

The results showed that children with type 1 diabetes had a 2 times higher risk of psychiatric problems than children without a connection with type 1 diabetes. The risk increased to times higher during a 6 month period after diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. The risk of suicide attempts, specifically, was 70% higher for children with type 1 diabetes than for children in the general population.

Mental health improving

The positive finding from the study is that the rate of psychiatric disorders in children with type 1 has been declining in recent decades. Whereas the risk was 2.7 times as likely for children with type 1 born between 1973 and 1986, the rate declined to 1.9 times for children with the condition born between 1997 and 2009.

It is not clear what is primarily responsible for the decrease in risk of psychiatric problems but some possible reasons include improved delivery of insulin by insulin pens rather than syringes, better understanding and acceptance of type 1 diabetes as well as the effects of improved blood glucose levels as a result of intensive insulin therapy.

The siblings of children with type 1 had a 10% higher risk of psychiatric problems than the general population. As this increase in risk is much lower than the children with diabetes, this strongly indicates that the psychiatric problems are indeed a consequence of type 1 diabetes.

The researchers note that the study backs up the importance of ensuring children with type 1 diabetes are monitored for evidence of mental health.