Depression and diabetes

A review paper came out last week in the Journal of Affective Disorders linking depression with type 2 diabetes (read the abstract here). However, researchers have known for a little while now that there is a relationship between this physical illness and depression. For example, a lot of studies show that patients with type 2 diabetes seem to have more symptoms of depression or diagnosed depression than the general public (you can read one of the studies from 2003 here). And in diabetes patients, the ones that also have depression are much more likely to die earlier (check out one recent study showing this).

Can depression be bad for your long term health?
Photo: © Majaphoto | 
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The question is – which comes first, the depression or diabetes? The likely answer is that it can happen either way. But what scientists would like to know is if depression can be a risk factor for developing diabetes later. There is a little bit of evidence to support this idea; for example, by studying people that don’t have diabetes at the start of study, and then following them up years later, some studies have found that depression predicts developing diabetes (check out these studies from 1996 and 2004).

Of course, what we don’t know for sure that is depression that is the risk factor, or if there are other things associated with depression that may be the more likely cause for developing diabetes, like lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity, obesity, etc.

But depression is found to be a risk factor, then maybe treating depression earlier in life (either with drugs, or therapy, or both) can actually help us to prevent a physical illness like diabetes from developing in some people as they get older! Perhaps not just diabetes, but other medical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, or osteoporosis…

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