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Diabetes is a global health problem of growing prevalence as western societies continue to become more obese and increasingly sedentary.

In Australia there are over one million people diagnosed with diabetes.

In the US there are now 23.5 million Americans with diabetes (that’s more than the current total population of Australia of 22.5 million). The even more scary fact is that there are the equivalent number with undiagnosed diabetes. For every one person with a diagnosis of diabetes another is unaware they have the condition.

One of my major concerns about this is the associated morbidity of greater risk of heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease, cancer and dementia.

Studies have now shown that those who have diabetes are at increased risk of suffering from a major depressive disorder and conversely, that those diagnosed with depression have an increased risk of developing diabetes.
A true double-edged sword.

A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week looked at over 65,000 women aged between 55 and 75 years in the US, over a ten-year period from 1996 to 2006.

They were given an initial questionnaire covering medical history and health practices with a follow up questionnaire every 2 years. Women who reported symptoms or were prescribed antidepressants or a medical diagnosis were classified as having depression. These women who reported a diagnosis of diabetes were given an additional questionnaire looking at symptoms, diagnostic tests and treatments.

Over the ten-year follow up 2800+ women developed depression and 7400 developed diabetes. Those with depression were found to have a 17% overall increased risk of developing diabetes. Those prescribed antidepressants had a 25% higher risk of developing diabetes compared to those without depression.
In those women with diabetes, there was a 29% increased risk of developing depression and those who used insulin were at particular risk 53% higher than those without diabetes.

This study adds to the evidence that these two conditions are closely related to each other and the level of the relationship depends on the relative severity or treatment of each condition

Lifestyle factors such as diet and weight have some influencing effect but the association was significant beyond these, which leads to the question of whether stress is related to the development of diabetes.
Both conditions are common in the middle aged and older populations so it would appear that early lifestyle interventions are crucial to truly try to mitigate the risks. Meanwhile the underlying mechanism of this association of diabetes and depression require more studies to understand the link.

By losing 5-7% of excess weight and undertaking 150 minutes (that’s roughly 20 minutes per day) of moderate intensity exercise, it is possible to reduce your relative risk of type two diabetes by 60%.

The bonus of doing this of course comes by also diminishing an associated risk of depression, heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease, cancer and dementia.

So where do you fit in with this?

JAMA and Archives Journals (2010, November 24). Depression may be both consequence of and risk factor for diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2010

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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