Diabetes is depressing, and vice versa

Diabetes is a depressing discipline, one that can take down the strongest spirit.

Cantrell Johnson, preacher and friend of the authorA Johns Hopkins team under Sherita Hill Golden has found that diabetes can lead to depression, and depression may have a link to diabetes.

Dr. Golden's study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on an analysis of data from MESA, a study of atherosclerosis launched in 2000 with over 6,000 participants.

She looked at the roughly 5,200 MESA members without diabetes at the start of the study, aged 45-84, and nearly 4,900 without depression at that time.

The researchers found that treated type 2 diabetes was associated with a 52 percent higher risk of developing elevated depressive symptoms. Individuals with untreated type 2 diabetes were not at increased risk.

There were indications of a reverse correlation, depression leading to diabetes (based on prescriptions for anti-depressants), but it wasn't statistically significant after adjusting for lifestyle factors, Golden wrote.

My own empirical experience following friends and relatives with diabetes shows Golden has a point. Diabetes is a depressing discipline, one that can take down the strongest spirit.

The man pictured above, a long-time neighbor, has the strongest spirit I know. He was diagnosed diabetic a half-dozen years ago.

I walked over yesterday to congratulate him on how many people read the first story with his picture, over 20,000 at last count. He was low, and I couldn't cheer him up. I'll keep an eye on him.

It doesn't have to be that way. My closest friend has diabetes and takes it as a challenge, a distraction from his other problems. Another victim, who has already lost both feet, grew much more cheerful upon moving-in with her aging mother.

The point is we should be aware of the difficulties diabetes causes, not just physically but mentally, and be ready to help in any way we can.

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