Can happiness help to manage diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves over time. 

The most common type of diabetes is type 2 diabetes (usually in adults), which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. 


However, did you know that there is a link between our emotions and glucose (blood sugar) levels? When we are depressed, we become less inclined to take care of our health, which may lead to exercising less and engaging in stress-eating more often. Both of these can lead to an increase in glucose levels.

When we are stressed, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline triggers more glucose to be released from the liver while cortisol inhibits insulin secretion. Insulin is responsible for allowing glucose to enter cells to be used as energy, and to regulate the amount of glucose found in the bloodstream. The disruption to insulin secretion can then lead to an increase in glucose level.
A systematic review and meta-analysis on the relationship between health status and subjective well-being (i.e. the extent to which a person perceives their life to be going well) published in the European Journal of Public Health by a group of researchers, found that health status is positively associated with higher subjective well-being. The association is stronger when subjective well-being is measured in terms of life satisfaction instead of happiness.

The implication of this study is that being satisfied or content with life can likely help to better manage health issues, including diabetes. 

Consider this, when we feel well, the body produces less stress hormones and hence, limiting the release of glucose into the bloodstream and preventing spikes in glucose levels.

Therefore, maintaining our well-being in terms of life satisfaction and/or happiness, is definitely one of the keys to better health. 

Kayonda Hubert Ngamaba, Maria Panagioti, Christopher J. Armitage, How strongly related are health status and subjective well-being? Systematic review and meta-analysis, European Journal of Public Health, Volume 27, Issue 5, October 2017, Pages 879–885,

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Dr Jaswyn Chin

Lead Clinical Psychologist

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