If you already have diabetes, depression can undermine your ability to manage your blood glucose levels. You may not have the energy to exercise, neglect to take your medications properly or forget to test your blood glucose levels regularly—increasing your risk of long-term diabetes complications.

Having both depression and diabetes has been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death. A 2011 research trial looked at the mortality risk in older women with depression and diabetes. Participants included 78,282 female nurses who were between ages 54 and 79 in 2000 and completed health questionnaires every two years through 2006.

Compared with participants who had neither, those who had both depression and diabetes were more than two times as likely to die of any cause and almost three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease. And the more severe the diabetes combined with depression, the greater the risk.

Those who were depressed and had been living with diabetes for more than 10 years were more than three times as likely to die of cardiovascular disease, and those who required insulin therapy were nearly five times as likely to suffer a cardiovascular-related death. This research is significant because most studies on depression and diabetes have been conducted in men, who are less likely than women to have depression.

Another study, which involved both men and women, found that people with type 2 diabetes and major depression are at greater risk not only for cardiovascular disease but also for other life-threatening diabetes complications. Published in Diabetes Care in 2010, the study involved more than 4,600 people with diabetes living in Washington state.

Five years after their initial interview, participants with depression had a 36 percent greater risk of microvascular complications, such as blindness and end-stage kidney disease, and a 25 percent higher risk of macrovascular diabetes complications, such as heart attack and stroke.

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 21 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 21 Aug 2013