MONDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Women suffering from both
diabetes and depression have a greater risk of dying, especially
from heart disease, a new study suggests.
In fact, women with both conditions have a twofold increased
risk of death, researchers say.
"People with both conditions are at very high risk of death," said lead researcher Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Those are double whammies."
When people are afflicted by both diseases, these conditions can
lead to a "vicious cycle," Hu said. "People with diabetes are more
likely to be depressed, because they are under long-term
psychosocial stress, which is associated with diabetes
People with diabetes who are depressed are less likely to take
care of themselves and effectively manage their diabetes, he added.
"That can lead to complications, which increase the risk of
Hu stressed that it is important to manage both the diabetes and
the depression to lower the mortality risk. "It is possible that
these two conditions not only influence each other biologically,
but also behaviorally," he said.
Type 2 diabetes and depression are often related to unhealthy
lifestyles, including smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise,
according to the researchers. In addition, depression may trigger
changes in the nervous system that adversely affect the heart, they
The report is published in the January issue of the
Archives of General Psychiatry.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Luigi Meneghini, an associate
professor of clinical medicine and director of the Eleanor and
Joseph Kosow Diabetes Treatment Center at the Diabetes Research
Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine,
said the findings were not surprising.
"The study highlights that there is a clear increase in risk to your health and to your life when you have a combination of diabetes and depression," he said.
Meneghini noted there are many diabetics with undiagnosed
depression. "I am willing to bet that there are quite a number of
patients with diabetes and depression walking around without a
Patients and doctors need to be more aware that depression is an
issue, Meneghini added.
For the study, Hu's team collected data on 78,282 women who were
aged 54 to 79 in 2000 and who were participants in the Nurses'
Over six years of follow-up, 4,654 women died, including 979 who
died of cardiovascular disease, the investigators found.
Women who had diabetes had about a 35 percent increased risk of
dying, and those with depression had about a 44 percent increased
risk, compared with women with neither condition, the researchers
Those with both conditions had about twice the risk of dying,
the study authors found.
When Hu's team looked only at deaths from heart disease, they
found that women with diabetes had a 67 percent increased risk of
dying and those with depression had a 37 percent increased risk of
death. But women who had both diabetes and depression had a
2.7-fold increased risk of dying from heart disease, the
In the United States, some 15 million people suffer from
depression and 23.5 million have diabetes, the researchers say. Up
to one-fourth of people with diabetes also experience depression,
which is nearly twice as many as among people who don't have
diabetes, they added.
"The combination of diabetes and depression needs to be addressed," Meneghini concluded. He added that patients need to tell their doctors if they are feeling depressed, and doctors also need to be on the lookout for signs of depression in their diabetic patients.
For more information on diabetes, visit the
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.