Study: Mental Health Issues Linked to Diabetes Before Age 40

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Those who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before the age of 40 are twice as likely to be hospitalized for mental illness as those who develop the disease later in life, this according to a new population-based study from Hong Kong.

“Increased risk of distress and anxiety has been reported in young people with diabetes in other international studies but the high risk of hospitalizations due to mental illness in people with young-onset diabetes in this large scale analysis involving over 0.4 million people with diabetes has not been reported before,” Dr. Juliana Chan from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Director of the Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity told Reuters Health.

How was the Study Conducted?

Researchers at The Chinese University of Hong Kong examined two large groups of Chinese adults with type 2 diabetes to determine the effects of age at onset and modifiable risk factors on hospitalization during the working lifespan, or ages 20 to 75.

Using the Hong Kong Diabetes Registry, the researchers computed hospitalization rates for both groups.

In total, they followed 422,908 adults (46% women) for 2.8 million person-years in The Hong Kong Diabetes Surveillance Database and 20,886 individuals (47%) women) for 0.2 million person-years in The Hong Kong Diabetes Registry.

What did they Find?

They found that adults with young-onset diabetes, had excess hospitalizations across their lifespan compared with persons with usual-onset diabetes, but also found a previously unknown link between young-onset diabetes and hospitalization for mental illness.

In both cohorts, patients with young-onset diabetes (before age 40) had the highest hospitalization rates by attained age, “far exceeding” age-specific rates for the general population.

In the registry cohort, roughly 37% of bed-days for patients with young-onset diabetes were due to mental illness, primarily psychotic (55%) and mood (31%) disorders.

According to the researchers, these findings suggest that efforts to prevent diabetes early in life are crucial. In addition, there is an urgent need to find ways to control cardiometabolic risk factors while focusing on mental health.

“We are living in a high-risk environment and people, young or old, can be affected by diabetes,” Chan told Reuters Health. “School education, professional training and government policies are called for to address this alarming issue affecting our global citizens and to formulate action plans focusing on community education, early intervention and holistic care in order to make our healthcare system sustainable, to reduce complications, premature death or hospitalization rates for enhancing our quality of life.”

The research has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.


  1. Young-onset diabetes linked to higher risk of hospitalization for mental illness before age 40. (2019, January 14). Retrieved 2019, Jan. 18.