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This article originally posted 29 May, 2014 and appeared in  Type 2 DiabetesAging & DiabetesPsychiatryIssue 731

Death Risk Higher in Older Diabetes Patients with Depression

More aggressive treatment of depression needed in older patients with diabetes.... 

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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.

New research suggests that treatment for depression may also keep them alive. Results of this new research showed that older diabetes patients with depression had a higher death risk than those without depression.

Lindsay Kimbro, MPP, project manager at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the study, suggested that older adults with diabetes may need to be considered a high priority for depression screening and treatment.

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.

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. 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.

The authors concluded that, it is important for all doctors with older diabetes patients to screen for depression and to treat these patients for depression as soon as possible.

Practice Pearls:
  • 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.
  • Risk of dying was 78 percent higher among seniors who were depressed than among seniors with diabetes who were not depressed.
  • Older people who are depressed may be less likely to take their diabetes medications as prescribed

This study appeared in the 2014 May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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This article originally posted 29 May, 2014 and appeared in  Type 2 DiabetesAging & DiabetesPsychiatryIssue 731

Past five issues: Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series Issue 199 | Issue 739 | GLP-1 Special Editions July 2014 | Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series Issue 198 | Issue 738 |

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