At first, diabetes and depression seem like totally separate conditions. One affects blood sugar, and one affects emotions. How can they be related? According to research, there’s a surprisingly strong connection. Diabetes and depression can coexist with each other. In turn, there’s a higher risk for dangerous complications. It’s hard to tell which causes which. But there is a clear relationship, and it shouldn’t be ignored. Screening, management, and treatment depend on it. Here’s a look at the science.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is defined by high blood sugar, or glucose. Normally, the pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that helps cells take up glucose. This keeps blood sugar in check. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. In type 2, the pancreas makes insulin but your body doesn’t use it properly. Over 29.1 million Americans have diabetes. Without proper management, it can lead complications like blindness, amputations, and kidney failure.1
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental illness. Every day, a depressed person feels “empty” and sad. Additional symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, hopelessness, and problems with sleep and appetite. They might eat too much or too little. These issues can interfere with work and personal relationships, making it hard to live a normal life.2 In America, over 19 million teens and adults suffer from depression.3
1. Unhealthy Lifestyle
Managing diabetes involves lifestyle changes. However, some people might have a hard time adjusting. This can be a major cause of depressive symptoms. In fact, diabetes doubles the risk of depression. Age and sex is not a factor.4 Unfortunately, it’s double-edged sword. If a person has depression, they’ll be less likely to successfully manage diabetes through diet, exercise, and medicine. There’s a higher risk for complications.
2. Poor Diet
Depression can lead to unhealthy eating habits.5. Eventually, this will pave the way for diabetes. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight or obese. A poor diet can amplify these factors, making diabetes just a bite away.6
3. Low Physical Activity
Being physically inactive is a risk for diabetes. The chances are even greater if you smoke or don’t eat well.7 With depression, exercise is unlikely. This might be due to fatigue, decreased energy, or simply losing interest. In general, self-care takes a nosedive with depression.8
4. Altered Energy Levels
If you have diabetes, management is everything. Otherwise, you’ll be at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Possible symptoms irritability, fatigue, weakness, tiredness, and anxiety.9 Here’s the problem: It is just like depression. Therefore, without good diabetes management, depression will just get worse.
5. Poor Glucose Control
Depression has a surprising effect on blood glucose. A study in the journal Diabetes Care found that depressive symptoms may promote insulin resistance. While the research looked at kids and teens, it’s worth noting.10 Additionally, another study found that type 2 diabetics with depression (and taking insulin) also have higher blood glucose.11
Diabetes and depression have a strong link. Of course, it doesn’t mean every diabetic will form depression or vice versa. Regardless, during screening and treatment, it’s vital to remember coexisting diseases.
|↑1||Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑2, ↑5, ↑8||Depression. WomensHealth.gov.|
|↑4||Papelbaum, Marcelo, Rodrigo O. Moreira, Walmir Coutinho, Rosane Kupfer, Leão Zagury, Silvia Freitas, and José C. Appolinário. “Depression, glycemic control and type 2 diabetes.” Diabetology & metabolic syndrome 3, no. 1 (2011): 26.|
|↑6||Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑7||Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑9||Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑10||Shomaker, Lauren B., Marian Tanofsky-Kraff, Elizabeth A. Stern, Rachel Miller, Jaclyn M. Zocca, Sara E. Field, Susan Z. Yanovski, Van S. Hubbard, and Jack A. Yanovski. “Longitudinal study of depressive symptoms and progression of insulin resistance in youth at risk for adult obesity.” Diabetes care 34, no. 11 (2011): 2458-2463.|
|↑11||Shomaker, Lauren B., Marian Tanofsky-Kraff, Elizabeth A. Stern, Rachel Miller, Jaclyn M. Zocca, Sara E. Field, Susan Z. Yanovski, Van S. Hubbard, and Jack A. Yanovski. “Longitudinal study of depressive symptoms and progression of insulin resistance in youth at risk for adult obesity.” Diabetes care 34, no. 11 (2011): 2458-2463.|