The Link Between Diabetes & Depression
The numbers show that diabetes and depression are both major health care issues. It is estimated that there are 14.7 million people diagnosed with diabetes, and 5 million who have it and don't yet know it. Major depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, affects approximately 14.8 million American adults. Both are serious conditions which can open the door to severe, even life-threatening complications. It has long been noted that diabetes and depression are linked, but it has only recently been determined that one can lead to the other.
Diabetics are often depressed
There is an established link between diabetes and depression-that diabetics often become depressed. Diabetes forces people to change their lifestyles, especially eating habits, and much of adults' social lives revolve around eating. Diabetes causes or complicates many things such as heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, blindness, nerve problems, dental disease, amputations, and other illnesses. It is no surprise then that people with diabetes can develop depression. Depression then complicates diabetes by making it more difficult for the patient to work at a healthier lifestyle. Depression makes it difficult to exercise, sleep, make healthy food choices, actually making life for those with diabetes much worse. In this instance it is easy to see a link between diabetes and depression-how depression can easily follow a diagnosis of diabetes. According to Greg Nichols, PhD., a senior researcher for Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, those with diabetes were twice as likely to be depressed as those without diabetes. He also said that 75% of the time those people were diagnosed with depression about four years before they were diagnosed with diabetes. These findings were presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Diabetes Association.
Depression may trigger diabetes
Recently, however, another link has been studied-the possibility that diabetes can follow depression. The April 23, 2007, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine contained a study done by a team led by researcher Mercedes R. Carthenon, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Her group studied almost 4,700 people ages sixty-five years and older who were not diabetic when the study began in 1989. For ten years, this group was evaluated for symptoms of depression leading to changes of mood, irritability, caloric intake, concentration and sleep. The researchers gave each participant a score for symptoms of depression, with scores of at least eight indicating higher levels of symptoms. 234 participants developed diabetes, and the rate of diabetes was higher among those who scored at least an eight in their pre-study symptoms of depression evaluation. "Older adults who report high levels of depressive symptoms are more likely to develop diabetes over time than older adults who have lower depressive symptoms," concluded Carthenon.
The importance of communication
There are established links between diabetes and depression. According to the American Diabetic Association, while depression can affect three to five percent of the average population, it affects fifteen to twenty percent of those with diabetes. The two together can be a dangerous combination because of the way they affect the body both physiologically and behaviorally as they each become more difficult to control. Doctors need to be aware of a patient's depression to check for diabetes, and diabetics need to share with their doctors if they are struggling with depression in order to stop this vicious cycle.