Health Team

Study: Are depression, diabetes connected?

Posted June 17, 2008 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2008 6:45 p.m. EDT

Diabetes and depression are two serious health conditions that affect millions of people each year. A study offers new evidence that there is a link between the diseases.

For Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, checking her blood sugar levels and injecting insulin is a never-ending job.

“Sometimes I'm overwhelmed to the point where I just have to go to bed and take a break,” she said.

Researchers analyzed whether there is an association between diabetes and symptoms of depression.

“Even with sort of symptoms of depression below a clinical threshold, there's still a risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Sherita Golden with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Researchers compared 5,000 men and women ages 45 to 84 and followed them for three years. They found participants who had symptoms of depression – including feelings of hopelessness, poor sleep and loss of appetite – were more likely than those without symptoms to develop diabetes.

“They had about a 42 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes over follow up of three years,” Golden said.

Those who already had type 2 diabetes at the start of the study, and were treated, had a 52 percent higher risk of developing symptoms of depression.

“We hypothesize that some of this may be related to the increased burden of monitoring in diabetes as associated with being on medical therapy,” Golden said.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I also try to say, ‘OK, I know this is my job, taking care of myself.’ But it took me a while to get to that point,” Terborg-Penn said.

Researchers said they believe certain lifestyle factors associated with depression, such as poor eating habits and lack of exercise, may contribute to increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

One concern is that depression may impact a patient's ability to care for their diabetes and that some patients may need to be treated for both diabetes and depression at the same time.