The Unspoken Epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes & Depression in the Latinx Community
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Let's talk about diabetes and its link to depression in Latinx/Hispanic communities. Recently, I came across a fascinating article published in the American Diabetes Association that links type 2 diabetes and depression in Latinx/Hispanic communities. When a Latinx member is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they are likely to also display depressive symptoms and emotional distress, describing depression indirectly. It’s evident that chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes lead to depression, so why aren’t we having these important conversations around emotional wellness? Let’s begin this conversation right here.
As a first-generation Latina raised in the U.S, I find this article alarming as type 2 diabetes is documented, but the link between type 2 diabetes and depression is not. Growing up, this information was not given to me or brought to my attention because it was such a taboo to discuss mental health struggles. It was not until recently that I started researching the correlation between the two and understood both diabetes and emotional wellness have an effect on the body. I want to bring this information to light and share with you some of my findings and thoughts.
The Latinx community suffers shocking disparities. According to the American Diabetes Association, “Nearly 12% of all Latinx have type 2 diabetes, compared to 7.1% of non-Hispanic whites.” Systemic racism in our society causes barriers that drive these disparities, including access to health care, lack of education, income, and even, mortality. Including, cultural barriers--from language barriers to legal status--keep people in Latinx communities from seeking mental health services.
The diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in Latinx communities is more socially acceptable than depression; depression and other mental illnesses are cultural taboos within Latinx communities. Even the way we speak about our health perpetuates this taboo. Spanish-speaking Latinx communities use terms like “susto,” “ataque de nervios,” or “mal de ojo” to describe emotional stress. These phrases, amongst other factors like embarrassment or being seen as “weak”, and pressures to be strong for our families, further contribute to the stigma and underdiagnosis of depression.
Type 2 diabetes is not talked about until it is too late. Neither is depression and its link to type 2 diabetes. Depression is a result of high levels of stress and causes further health issues. Depression affects about 15-30% of adults living with type 2 diabetes. Less than 25% of people living with type 2 diabetes and depression are appropriately treated. Depression drives people to act in unhealthy ways. If left untreated, it can impact the choices we make, including the way we eat.
According to the article, “Studies found higher levels of depressive symptoms (regardless of type 2 diabetes) among middle-aged and older Hispanics and blacks than among white Americans of the same age-groups. Compared to white non-Hispanics and African-American women, Latinx/Hispanic women have more severe chronic depression.” This is a direct correlation to the many factors listed above including the stress of single-parent households, migration, and social isolation. Yet, Latinx/Hispanics are less likely to get diagnosed with depression after they’ve discovered they have type 2 diabetes. We need to acknowledge that emotional wellness is just as important and impacts physical health. The mind and body are connected and never separated.
But how do we further bring this conversation to the spotlight and discuss it with our families? How do we bridge this medical information and knowledge to the Latinx communities that are addressed here? How do we bring this information to all communities affected by type 2 diabetes and not just Latinx?
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In researching these topics, I was able to address this conversation with my family, friends, and community. If you have a family member struggling with type 2 diabetes, check-in with them. If diabetes runs in your family and there are preventative measures you can take, start by addressing these conversations the next time you share a meal with a loved one. We know that these conversations can be scary, but luckily there are preventative measures you can take to reverse these conditions and we are here to help give you what you may need.
As Latinx Heritage Month (Sept 15- Oct 15) just passed we will continue to celebrate you, the vibrancy of the Latinx community, and how you choose to identify. If you’re unsure of how someone from the community identifies, please ask.
Latinx: The use of Latinx in this post is to bring awareness and inclusivity to the community. Please refer to this Instagram post to uncover the different terms used by the diverse community of Latinidad and be sure to follow us!
Sourced from: American Diabetes Association