Death Risk Higher in Older Diabetes Patients with Depression

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Older diabetes patients may need more depression screening

May 24, 2014 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Seniors who have diabetes and are depressed may not take proper care of themselves. Treating their depression may help them to eat better, exercise and follow medical advice.

Treatment for depression may also keep them alive, new research suggests.

Results of this new research showed that older diabetes patients had a higher death risk than those without depression.

The researchers suggested that older adults with diabetes may need to be considered a high priority for depression screening and treatment.

"Tell your doctor or therapist if you're feeling depressed."

This study was led by Lindsay Kimbro, MPP, project manager at the David Giffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The study included 3,341 people 65 years of age and older. All participants had diabetes and all had complete survey and file data.

According to Kimbro and colleagues, people with diabetes are twice as likely to be depressed as people without diabetes, and are also more likely to die sooner than people without diabetes. These researchers wanted to know if seniors with diabetes who were depressed were more likely to die sooner than seniors with diabetes who were not depressed.

"Depression and diabetes are a bad combination," said Cliff Hamrick, LPC, a counselor in Austin, Texas.

"It is not uncommon for people with depression to lack the motivation or the energy to engage in activities that allow them to take care of themselves. Some forms of depression can even cause people to sleep too much and eat too much or too little," Hamrick told dailyRx News. "Unfortunately, diabetes requires constant self-care in order to avoid the most severe consequences of the disease."

Kimbro and team followed the participants in their study for six or seven years, and then looked at the National Death Index to see who had died in that time, and how long after they were enrolled in the study they died. Depression was measured when the seniors enrolled in the study using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ). The PHQ is a multiple-choice, self-report test used as a screening tool for conditions like depression and anxiety. Those who scored 9 or higher were considered depressed.

In this study, more than 32 percent of seniors with diabetes were depressed.

The researchers found that the risk of dying was 78 percent higher among seniors who were depressed than among seniors with diabetes who were not depressed.

They also found that the risk was lower for seniors who were being treated for their depression with antidepressants, although some data was missing, and this finding did not form the main portion of the study.

The study's authors suggested that older people who are depressed may be less likely to take their diabetes medications as prescribed, less likely to diet or exercise, and less likely to check their blood sugar levels daily as they should.

These authors noted that it is important for all doctors with older diabetes patients to screen for depression and to treat these patients if appropriate.

"It is of vital importance, particularly in elderly adults, to screen and treat depression as soon as possible," the authors concluded.

This study appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

No personal or financial conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
May 22, 2014
Last Updated:
May 27, 2014