Some Good News on Diabetes & Depression

The first-ever known study to examine the relationship between diabetes and mortality in a so-called “depression intervention trial” appears in the December issue of Diabetes Care. And why should you care? Because the results are pretty significant.

Of 584 people in the study — all seniors aged 60 and up — those receiving treatment for their depression were found to be HALF AS LIKELY TO DIE during the five-year follow-up interval, versus the depressed patients who did not receive said care. This indicates that life expectancy can go up by a WHOPPING 50% for people with diabetes and clinical depression when their depression is properly treated.Feeling_better

Depression makes everything in life difficult, but clearly the combo with an intensely self-managed disease like diabetes is killer. So it’s great to have some solid empirical evidence that treatment makes such a difference.

“Depression is common among people with diabetes and contributes to issues with medication and diet adherence, and also leads to an overall reduced quality of life,”€ says one professor who helped lead the study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Aye.

A nice overview on the much-overlooked phenomenon of depression appeared recently at HealthyConcerns, including links to “What Kind of Depression Do You Have?” and “How to Deal with Post-Holiday Relationship Blues.

So if you have diabetes, how do you know whether
you’re just experiencing the everyday frustrations, or whether you’re
genuinely distressed — and possibly in need of help?

In fact, we devoted a whole chapter (#19) in our Know Your Numbers book to this topic. We included two self-test tools that can help you “measure your distress” — one reprinted with permission from the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, and one official index from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (that means disease control).

Diabetes Health magazine has also just published a new feature story on the topic of diabetes & depression. On an upbeat note there, Dr. Susan Guzman of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute has this to say about diabetes:

“As a disease, it’s a hopeful disease. There’s a lot you can do to make a difference whereas with a lot of diseases all you can do is help them cope. With diabetes, you can turn someone’s life around. I see people who have suffered with both illnesses for 20 or 30 years get help and cut their A1c in half. They say, ‘If only I had known.’”

Too right. Diabetes is a damn pain, and can be quite overwhelming, but at least our actions can make a difference.

In a side note, the New York Times Well blog points out that clearing up clutter can help clear the dark corners of your mind. That post quotes Lynne Johnson, a professional organizer from Quincy, MA, and president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization:

“I don’t see chronic disorganization ever becoming a medical diagnosis, but it is a contributing factor to noncompliance to taking meds and keeping appointments and being able to do exercise and eat well and all those things that so contribute to having a healthy life.”

In case it might be clutter that’s standing in the way of your health, read the full NY Times story HERE. One doctor recalls a patient whose garage was “a solid cube of clutter.” The woman apparently cleaned up her home and also lost about 50 pounds. “It wasn’t, at the end of the day, about her weight,” the doctor says. “It was about uncluttering at multiple levels of her life.”

Hmm, it seems whatever end of the depression spectrum you’re on, tackling it head-on is quite likely to improve and/or extend your life. That’s some good news, at least.

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4 Responses

  1. Mark
    Mark January 16, 2008 at 9:57 am | | Reply

    There are times when I read your blog and it just blows me away. I just finished a three day stay in the hospital due to chest pains. As it turned out, they were stress related. I am planning to start EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and am curious if others have tried this method and what results they achieved.

  2. Zazzy
    Zazzy January 16, 2008 at 10:21 am | | Reply

    “This indicates that life expectancy can go up by a WHOPPING 50% for people with diabetes and clinical depression when their depression is properly treated.”

    I don’t believe that is what the study says. I doubt very much that life expectancy increases from 70 years to 105 years with treatment for depression. It is nice to know that treatment has a positive effect, however.

    Mark – EMDR remains controversial in the field. The practioners I know agree that it shouldn’t be used alone. To get the most from it it should probably used in combination with traditional therapy. I hope it helps you and I’d be interested in hearing what you think of it.

  3. AmyT
    AmyT January 16, 2008 at 11:35 am | | Reply

    Zazzy, that was “remaining” life expectancy, as in: will you live another 14 years, or only 7? I think we’d all agree it would be nice to double our time left ;)

  4. Lauren
    Lauren January 17, 2008 at 1:55 am | | Reply

    I absolutely agree that confronting a health problem and taking charge can have an energizing and depression-relieving impact on one’s life. For me, nothing is worse than feeling powerless. The double-edged sword of diabetes is the high degree of self-management it requires. While it can be exhausting, we also know that our health is literally in our hands (or, more appropriately, in our oft-pricked fingertips). I take comfort in this.

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