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Study: Diabetes, depression share link

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a 10-year study that suggests diabetes and depression are linked.

Rosemary Boggs, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Apr 11, 2016

The study followed more than 65,000 women, ages 50 to 75. Over the course of the research, depression and new cases of Type 2 diabetes were monitored. Overall, 2,844 women from the group were diagnosed with diabetes and 7,415 developed depression.

Additionally, the more severe the depression or diabetes is, the more likely the person is to develop the other disease.

Researchers suggested that the most likely common denominator is stress. High levels of stress hormones, which are often found in people who are depressed, can lead to problems with glucose and blood sugar metabolism, increased insulin resistance and an accumulation of stomach fat, all risks for diabetes.

The study's authors say that doctors treating diabetics should take care to address psychological aspects, and that doctors treating depression should pay attention to blood sugar and other symptoms of diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association website ( had this to say: "At any given time, most people with diabetes do not have depression. But studies show that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression than people without diabetes. ...

"The stress of daily diabetes management can build" and build and build. We may feel alone or set apart from others because of the extra work and inconvenience involved in our daily routine.

Diabetes complications like neuropathy or having trouble keeping blood sugar levels where we'd like can make us feel out of control. And then there are days when just taking our blood glucose readings can feel overwhelming.

Feelings like that may eventually block good self care, even when we know it's not healthy.

The association says that spotting depression is the first step. Getting help is the second. Symptoms can include:

• Loss of pleasure. We just lose interest in doing things -- anything.

• Change in sleep patterns.

• Change in appetite.

• Trouble concentrating.

• Loss of energy.

• Nervousness.

• Suicidal thoughts.

Isolation or hiding problems can send us tumbling downhill fast. But knowing that there is a link between diabetes and depression can give us a place to start with our doctor.

I spend a lot of time at a computer, and so I tend to look for help on the Internet. The other day, I read an article titled "The Emotional Effects of Diabetes" by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (

Gupta quotes Steve Sternlof, a psychologist with the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at the University of Oklahoma, who also sees a correlation between diabetes and depression. Diabetics do, he says, worry about complications, interpersonal relationships, bad habits, self care and managing their disease. His takeaway is that we need to change our thinking.

While we may not have control over how our body uses insulin, we can at least control how we feel about it.

Gupta also quotes Dr. Jason Baker, a diabetic who is an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College. He says that the support of others is crucial.

Finding an outlet for stress is another key. Any sort of method that helps us feel more relaxed will affect our blood sugar and diabetes control, and should also have a positive impact on depression.

The bottom line, Baker says, is that we have to face our fears about diabetes and tell ourselves, "I am controlling the diabetes, it's not controlling me."

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