Psychological stress and type 1 diabetes mellitus: what is the link?

Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2018 Dec;14(12):1081-1088. doi: 10.1080/1744666X.2018.1538787. Epub 2018 Oct 24.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a chronic disease characterized by the destruction of insulin-producing β-cells of the pancreas. The current paradigm in this disease's etiopathogenesis points toward the interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Among the environmental variables, dietary factors, intestinal microbiota, toxins, and psychological stress have been implicated in disease onset. Areas covered: This review aims to investigate the relationship between psychological stress and T1DM by presenting evidence from epidemiological studies, animal models, and to provide the mechanism involved in this association. The literature search was conducted through PubMed to identify studies that investigate the connection between stress and T1DM. Experimental designs, such as case-control, and retrospective and prospective cohorts studies, were included. Expert commentary: A wide array of evidence, ranging from epidemiological to animal models, points toward the role of psychological stressors in T1DM pathogenesis. Various mechanisms have been proposed, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, influence of the nervous system on immune cells, and insulin resistance. Further research could investigate the gene-stress interactions to evaluate the risk of T1DM development.

Keywords: Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus; Stress; autoimmunity; psychological stress; type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*