Patient Education

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Chronic Condition News

April 2013

Diabetes and Depression: A Troubling Connection

How you feel physically can certainly influence how you feel mentally - and vice-versa. A prime example of that connection is diabetes and depression. Ongoing research suggests that people with either health condition are at higher risk of developing the other. By themselves, diabetes and depression can be hard to deal with. Together, they can seriously affect your overall health.

Photo of woman with pensive expression looking out window

A chronic disease conundrum

Numerous studies have explored the link between diabetes and depression. But scientists are still unsure if diabetes causes depression or depression causes diabetes. The latest research suggests the influence may go both ways, although depression seems less likely to lead to diabetes.

A recent review of 16 studies with nearly 500,000 participants found that people with type 2 diabetes were more likely to have depression than those without the disease. Past research reported a 24 percent higher risk for depression in people with type 2 diabetes. Those younger than 45 may be at particular risk for depression or type 2 diabetes if they already have the other condition.

Possibilities for the connection

The constant task of managing diabetes can be stressful. People with diabetes may need to take insulin or other medications to control blood sugar and closely watch what they eat. They may feel isolated and alone in dealing with such a chronic condition. These reasons may help explain why people with diabetes are more prone to depression.

On the flip side, those who are depressed may lean toward lifestyle choices that increase their risk for diabetes. For instance, being depressed may cause a person to eat more. Feeling fatigued may curb physical activity. Such depressive symptoms can lead to weight gain; being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for diabetes.

No matter which condition comes first, managing both of them together can be particularly challenging. They can worsen symptoms for both illnesses and hinder treatment. For example, a person with diabetes who becomes depressed may be less likely to eat properly, affecting how well he or she controls blood sugar levels.

Proper treatment for both can make a difference, though. A recent study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that by treating diabetes and depression at the same time patients fared better. In fact, study participants who were given such integrated care had better blood sugar control and fewer symptoms of depression.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.


Do you or a loved one have diabetes? Talk with your doctor about the risk for depression. Also consider taking this risk assessment. 

Recognizing Depression

The first step in treating depression is recognizing it. Use the checklist below to determine if your bad case of the blues may be depression. If the symptoms sound familiar, talk with your doctor.

  • Do you suffer from feelings of gloom, helplessness, or pessimism for days at a time?

  • Do you have trouble sleeping-falling asleep at night, staying asleep, or sleeping too much?

  • Do you frequently feel tired or lack energy?

  • Have you stopped meeting with family or friends?

  • Are you eating far less than usual-or far more?

  • Do you have problems focusing on routine tasks?

  • Do you feel a sense of inappropriate guilt or worthlessness?

  • Do you have recurrent thoughts of death or suicide?


Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

American Diabetes Association - Depression

National Institute of Mental Health - Depression and Diabetes


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