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Diabetes and Depression Go Hand in Hand

Around the world, rates of diabetes are on the rise. The disease is marked by high blood sugar that, over the long term, negatively affects other parts of the body – especially the kidneys, heart and eyes. Some research has also noted that people with diabetes are almost twice as likely to also have symptoms of depression. Rose Hoban has more on that.

Doctor Sherita Hill Golden from the Johns Hopkins University was interested in seeing if having diabetes can lead to developing depression, or whether being depressed makes it more likely a person will develop diabetes. She used data from a large study that included more than 5000 people.

In the first analysis, she and her colleagues examined whether having elevated symptoms of depression led to type 2 diabetes. They excluded people who already had diabetes and looked for people who did and didn't have symptoms of depression.

"We found that people who had elevated symptoms of depression were 42% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes over follow-up," she reports.

Then Golden looked at people who were being treated for diabetes to see if they were more likely to develop depression. "The people who had treated diabetes were 52% more likely to develop symptoms of depression over follow-up in our study," she says. "But interestingly, people who had pre-diabetes and untreated diabetes were about 20% less likely to develop symptoms of depression."

Golden says she found it interesting that people who had diabetes - but didn't know it - were less likely to be depressed. She proposes that the reason for the link between diabetes and depression is more emotional than physiological.

"People who are taking medications for diabetes may also have to monitor their sugar and health behaviors much more intensely than people who don't carry a diagnosis," she observes. "And so just the burden of the monitoring may lead to risk of depressive symptoms."

Golden says patients with depression had worse health behaviors: they smoked more, they ate more, they weighed more and they exercised less. All those behaviors contribute to developing diabetes. She also suggests there might be some connections between increased stress hormones in people with depression and the development of diabetes. Golden says that will be an area for further study.

Her research is published in JAMA – the Journal of the American Medical Association.