Diabetes and Depression Around the World

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It’s understandable that anyone with diabetes might experience occasional bouts of depression, particularly during the holiday season. A new study has found that diabetes-related depression is a global phenomenon, although rates vary by country.

Researchers from Open University in the United Kingdom examined data from diabetes patients representing countries from all parts of the world: Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Uganda, and Ukraine — some 200 patients in each country. The mean number of years that the subjects had diabetes was 8.8, their mean age was 54.1 and slightly more than half (55%) were women. According to Catherine E. Lloyd, PhD, one of the researchers, the study was, as far as they knew, the first “to look at this issue outside of the U.S. and U.K., where most prior studies into diabetes and depression have been conducted.” No fewer than 10% of the patients were diagnosed with major depressive disorder, although the rates varied by country, from a low of 1% in Uganda to nearly 30% in Bangladesh. Mexico, Russia, and Poland also scored high in the depression rankings.

One of the main problems, Dr. Lloyd explained, is that in many countries, the detection of depression in diabetes patients is “extremely poor or nonexistent.” Although identifying depression and other mental disorders “can lead to better quality of life, improved management of diabetes, and better clinical outcomes,” physicians often fail to ask their diabetes patients about symptoms of depression. But, she added, “If you don’t ask, you can’t help, and doctors can help if they know how to refer patients.” That’s especially true because treatments for depression are available in many of the countries included in the study. The next step for Dr. Lloyd’s team will be to develop tools for depression screening and assessment, create an international network of centers that can collaborate on diabetes-related depression, and “identify the most beneficial ways of treating depression in people with diabetes.”

Want to learn more about maintaining your mental health with diabetes? Read “Dealing With Diabetes and Depression,” “Reducing Diabetes Stress: Alternative Treatments” and “Relaxation Techniques for Stressful Times.”

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