Are Diabetes and Depression Related?

A 2010 study conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that they are. In fact, in the 10-year study that followed 65 thousand women, ages 50 to 75, researchers suggest that they are bidirectional: each a potential cause or consequence of the other.

According to the study: Women who suffered from depression were 17% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes during the study period than women who weren’t depressed.  Women with diabetes were 29% more likely to develop depression than women without diabetes.  Researchers agreed that factors such as physical activity and body mass index might partially explain the connection, but that the real culprit is stress.

High levels of stress hormones, often found in people who are depressed can lead to problems with glucose and blood sugar metabolism, increased insulin resistance and an accumulation of stomach fat — all risk factors for diabetes. Depression can also lend itself to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a poor diet and no exercise which can also lead to an increased risk for diabetes.

The study also observed that there was “a significant increased risk of developing depression in the patients with diabetes during the 10 years of follow-up, which supports the researchers notion that diabetes is a “depressogenic” condition and a “stress-sensitive” disorder.”  Main reasons were cited were:
• biochemical changes directly caused by diabetes or its treatment
• stress associated with living with diabetes
Noting the prevalence of both depression and diabetes, in the middle-aged and elderly population, particularly in women, the researchers recommend proper lifestyle interventions including adequate weight management and regular physical activity to lower the risk of both diseases.
If you, or a loved one are living with, or at risk for diabetes be sure to address the psychological aspects of disease management with your doctor. Likewise, it’s a good idea for people who are managing their depression pay attention to blood sugar levels and other signs of diabetes.
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