Depression is widely recognised as a mood disorder that may lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, anger, irritability or frustration, loss of interest in activities, and overeating or loss of appetite that can last from days to months, which alternates with episodes of wellness. Depression is a highly debilitating condition associated with substantial morbidity and an enormous social and economic burden. Depression is associated with various psychiatric and medical conditions such as diabetes. Diabetes is a serious public health problem that is rising sharply in Western countries. There is evidence suggesting an increase in diabetes risk in depressive patients, although it is not clear whether the risk is direct, or the two conditions are merely associated. However, a recently published study has suggested that depression is a major risk factor for diabetes and plays a direct role in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D).

A study was conducted by Jared Maina and colleagues and was published in Diabetes Care in September 2023. The study used the UK Biobank data, which has 500,000 registered individuals, and obtained the genetic data for the population between the ages of 40 and 69 years. The study also used similar registry data from Finland, which has over 300,000 registered individuals. The researchers used Mendelian randomisation to assess causality between T2D and depression. The risk of diabetes was higher in the population with depression, with 1.26 times the risk of developing T2D compared to the control population. Both diseases shared the same seven genetic loci, which led researchers to confirm that depression was a major risk for diabetes. However, the risk of developing depression in the diabetic population was not significantly higher than in the control group of the population. The study also found that body mass index was a significant factor in the development of type 2 diabetes in the depressive population.

Major depression and T2D are a major public health burden in the UK. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the diagnosed prevalent cases of major depression in the UK will increase from 1.74 million in 2023 to 1.80 million in 2032. Similarly, T2D will increase from 4.2 million in 2023 to 5.1 million in 2028 in the UK.

The research by Maina and colleagues has raised the issue of considering depression as a major risk factor for T2D, alongside obesity and family history. Although the relationship is not certain, there are suggestions that a person suffering from depression is more likely to live an inactive lifestyle and consume unhealthy food. Moreover, anti-depressive drugs can lead to weight gain, another major risk factor for diabetes. Further research is needed to explore in-depth the causal relationship between depression and diabetes. People suffering from depression should also be monitored for signs and symptoms of diabetes, and offered appropriate treatment to minimise the risk of diabetic complications. 

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