Mild Depression Can Worsen the Symptoms of Diabetes

Posted on April 1st, 2014
Posted in Depression

depression-worsens-diabetesDepression affects a person’s ability to function and enjoy the normal pleasures of everyday life. It also impacts the people closest at hand. There have been numerous studies which have looked at how major depression affects illnesses, but few have examined how mild depression might make an impact. New research shows that being even mildly depressed can worsen the side effects of type 2 diabetes.
The study involved 1,064 individuals ages 18-80. The study administered multiple surveys over five years to the participants in order to assess depression, quality of life, disability, social history, exercise and diabetes-connected health complications, as well as to gather psychiatric and medical health history.

Researchers used the surveys to develop two-week compounded scores for depression. Major depression is diagnosed by the presence of five-to-nine recognized symptoms that persist for at least two weeks. Mild depression, on the other hand, requires fewer than five recognized symptoms which may occur only once. Investigators used the scores to identify people with mild depression and then used self-reporting on the surveys to check for any link between minor depression and negative diabetes side effects like a reduced quality of life, limited mobility or poor self-hygiene.

Overall, researchers found that a type 2 diabetic who experiences more than one episode of mild depression faces triple the chance they’ll have worsened side effects. A single bout of mild depression was associated with a reduced ability to work, care for self or the home. This outcome occurred 50 percent more often in patients who had been depressed just once than it did among those who were never been depressed. For patients with four or more bouts of depression there was a 300 percent increased risk of lowered functioning and a 250 percent increase in risk for a reduced quality of life.

Diabetes currently affects 25.8 million Americans, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts many more will develop the illness over the next two decades. Even without co-occurring depression, diabetes increases a person’s risk for heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness. These dangers alone can feel stressful and one expert commenting on the study pointed out that mild depression is really chronic stress.

Major depression affects 20 percent of those with type 2 diabetes, which is two times the rate among the general public. How many type 2 diabetics may be dealing with mild depression is unknown. What is now known is that being depressed makes it very likely that their symptoms will worsen and that the trajectory for their illness will be less hopeful.

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