JAMA Logo A unique link between depression and diabetes recently came into the limelight. According to a groundbreaking study, depression is the consequence of and risk for diabetes and vice versa. It seems that the diabetes-depression relation is bidirectional.

65,381 women with an average age of 50 to 75 years in 1996 were included in the study. Volunteers had to fill in a questionnaire about their medical history and health practices. Also follow-up questionnaires were filled up every two years through 2006. Those reporting symptoms of depression, dependant on antidepressant medication or being given a diagnosis of depression by a physician were classified as having depression. A supplementary questionnaire about symptoms, diagnostic tests and treatments was answered by women newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Experts added, “A diagnosis of diabetes may lead to the symptoms of depression for the following reasons: depression may result from the biochemical changes directly caused by diabetes or its treatment, or from the stresses and strains associated with living with diabetes and its often debilitating consequences. Future studies are needed to confirm our findings in different populations and to investigate the potential mechanisms underlying this association. Furthermore, depression and diabetes are highly prevalent in the middle-aged and elderly population, particularly in women. Thus, proper lifestyle interventions including adequate weight management and regular physical activity are recommended to lower the risk of both conditions.”

In the 10-year follow-up, 2,844 women were presumably suffering from type 2 diabetes and 7,415 developed depression. An Pan, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues suggest that women with depression face 17 percent more threat of developing diabetes. Risk factors such as physical activity and BMI were adjusted throughout the analysis. Subjects consuming antidepressants apparently had a 25 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those without depression. On controlling other risk factors for mood disorders, women with diabetes were probably 29 percent more likely to develop depression.

It appeared that participants taking insulin for diabetes had a 53 percent increased chance than women without the condition. Experts conclude that depression and diabetes are closely associated to each other. This reciprocal link supposedly depends on the severity or treatment of each condition. It was mentioned that all the correlations were independent of sociodemographic, diet and lifestyle factors. If the scientists are to be believed then, lifestyle factors like physical activity and BMI partially mediate the relation between depression and new cases of diabetes.

The study was published in the November 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.