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People with Diabetes Suffer More from Depression

  • Rose Hoban

Scientists have known for a while that people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are more prone to getting depressed after they're diagnosed. According to Dr. Lawrence Fisher from the University of California in San Francisco, about one in every 5 or 6 patients with type 2 diabetes - also known as adult-onset diabetes - reported symptoms of depression. That's way above the general population.

In a study of about 500 people with both diabetes and depression, Fisher found they had trouble keeping their diabetes symptoms under control. "When you're feeling grumpy and gloomy and kind of down, your energy level is low you're less willing to be creative and you're more restrictive, and that affects self-care behavior. You may not as motivated to manage your diet, or to go for that extra 10-minute walk this week or today."

Fisher says those depressed people ended up having higher blood sugar readings, which puts them at risk for long term complications of diabetes. Those complications can include kidney failure and heart disease. He explains, "People's ability to do the day-to-day simple, pedestrian problem-solving around disease management did decrease as their mood slipped."

Fisher says it's possible for diabetes patients to learn how to care for themselves better - and at the same time, avoid exacerbating their depression.

Another recent, related study suggests people at risk for diabetes might not want to take an antidepressant if they're feeling blue. Dr. Richard Rubin, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, found overweight patients who were at high risk for diabetes were more likely to develop the disease if they took antidepressant medications.

He calls it a striking finding. "It does have some substantial public health implications because there are probably 40,000,000 people who have what we call pre-diabetes, and there are probably 15% of the population and increasing all the time who are taking anti-depressant medication."

Rubin says the relationship between diabetes and depression needs to be explored further. The research was presented at the national American Diabetes Association conference in Washington.

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