June 18th, 2008
11:36 AM ET

Which comes first? Depression or diabetes?

By Ann J. Curley
CNN Medical Assignment Manager

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The familiar question entered my mind as I was reading a study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association regarding diabetes and depression. Why? Because the study found that patients with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing depression and patients with depression have a higher risk of diabetes.

Lead study author Sherita Hill Golden, M.D. of Johns Hopkins University says her research involved two analyses of data generated by a study looking at heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The study involved over 5,000 men and women, ages 45 to 84.

First the researchers looked at people who began the study with symptoms of depression, but did not have diabetes. Those people had a 42 percent higher risk for developing diabetes during a three-year follow-up. Golden speculates that behaviors associated with depression, such as overeating, smoking, and not exercising, help to trigger the diabetes.

A second facet of the study looked at patients in whom type 2 diabetes was diagnosed, who had no symptoms of depression. Those patients showed a 54 percent higher risk for depression during the three-year follow-up period. Golden believes that the stress of managing diabetes can lead to depression for some patients. Although this study focused on type 2 diabetes, Golden says that depression is also common among type 1 diabetics.

Health care providers and patients must be aware of the double-edged sword of diabetes and depression. Identifying and treating both is critical. It’s important to understand that depression, when untreated, can lead to behaviors that can lead to, or worsen diabetes, because people eat poorly and don’t exercise. But there are many treatment options for both conditions that can keep patients healthy and happy.

Do you have diabetes or depression? Are you concerned that one might lead to the other? What are you doing to take care of yourself?

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