Many people with type 2 diabetes also struggle with depression, and this combination can lead to premature death, researchers say.

“More than 35 million Americans have diabetes, and more than 95 million have prediabetes, making diabetes one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.,” said study co-author Jagdish Khubchandani. He is a professor of public health sciences at New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces.

“Unfortunately, a large proportion of these people struggle with depression, anxiety or poor mental health,” Khubchandani said in a university news release.

To explore this association, the researchers used data on nearly 15,000 people from the 2005 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The research team then linked the data to death records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The investigators found that more than 10% of American adults suffer from depression or diabetes. Overall, participants with diabetes were 1.7 times more likely to die prematurely than those without diabetes, the data showed.

The risk of death more than quadrupled for participants with both diabetes and depression compared to those without diabetes or depression.

“Diabetes alone is a debilitating disease, and the co-occurrence of depression makes it worse,” Khubchandani said. “Unfortunately, many Americans with diabetes continue to struggle financially and emotionally, making it difficult to manage the disease.”

Many demographic, psychosocial and biological mechanisms could be responsible for the co-occurrence of depression and diabetes, the study authors suggested.

Certain characteristics are common in individuals at higher risk for co-occurring depression and diabetes. They include lower income and education, racial/ethnic minority status, unhealthy lifestyles and having other chronic diseases.

About 75% of people with diabetes receive treatment to manage their disorder in developed countries like the United States. But more than 50% of diabetics with behavioral health issues do not get adequate mental health care, the researchers noted.

The study recommends that doctors integrate treatment of mental health issues into primary and specialist care for diabetes.

“Improving the quality of care for diabetes and co-occurring mental health issues could improve the well-being and life expectancy for Americans living with diabetes,” Khubchandani said.

The findings were published in the November issue of Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on depression.

SOURCE: New Mexico State University, news release, Oct. 26, 2023