Older people with diabetes have a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms

This new study examined the prevalence and health factors associated with depressive symptoms in older adults with diabetes.

According to a new study published in Sao Paulo Medical Journal.

Diabetes mainly affects older people, and previous studies have found an association between diabetes and depression. Socioeconomic, individual, behavioral and clinical factors have been shown to be predictors of depression in older people with diabetes. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and health factors associated with depressive symptoms in older adults with diabetes.

Adults enrolled in the Hypertension and Diabetes Monitoring and Control Service of 4 Basic Care Units (USB) were included in this cross-sectional study. The research was conducted in 4 BHU zones, with a random draw among the 91 micro-zones. A community health worker was assigned to assist with house calls and to assist the search team in locating residences. Inclusion criteria included being an elderly person with type 2 diabetes, aged 60 years or older and registered in the BHU region.

A form consisting of 2 sets of surveys was applied to collect sociodemographic, behavioral and health status data, and it also included the Geriatric Depression Scale. Gender, age groups (60-69, 70-79, and 80), ethnicity, marital status, and education level were the sociodemographic factors included.

Health conditions were also assessed, including family history of diabetes, diabetes complications, rheumatism, osteoporosis, systemic hypertension, circulation problems, heart problems, sleep disturbances, vision, chronic pain, type of diabetes complications and prescribed treatment.

There were 236 elderly people with diabetes included in the study. The majority were female (76.7%) and the mean age (SD) was 71.6 (8.03) years. Sixty-four percent of participants reported brown ethnicity, 81.4% had no partner, and 61.9% had primary education or less.

A total of 24.2% of seniors with diabetes reported having depressive symptoms. Participants without a partner were the most common type of patient in this group, but this association was not significantly associated with depressive symptoms. Brown ethnicity was primarily associated with depressive symptoms, with 59.6% of patients with depressive symptoms reporting brown ethnicity.

Alcohol consumption was found to be associated with depressive symptoms, with 7.0% of patients with depressive symptoms reporting excessive alcohol consumption compared to 1.1% of those without depressive symptoms who drank excessively. Significant associations with depressive symptoms were also found in the existence of diabetes complications (59.6%) and types of ocular (48.1%) and circulatory (38.9%) complications. Rheumatism (50.9%), heart and circulatory problems (61.4%), sleep disturbances (64.9%) and severe chronic pain (77.2%) were all associated with depressive symptoms in older people with diabetes, as the majority of people who reported having depressive symptoms also reported these health problems.

The researcher concluded that this study was consistent with previous studies in finding that depressive symptoms were very common in older people with type 2 diabetes.

“This perspective suggests that by identifying groups most at risk, primary care professionals can develop care strategies and refer older adults with [diabetes] for mental health consultation to reduce complications and improve prognosis,” the authors wrote.


Andrade DMB, Rocha RM, Ribeiro IJS. Depressive symptoms in older people with diabetes mellitus: a cross-sectional study. Sao Paulo Med J. Published online October 3, 2022. doi:10.1590/1516-3180.2021.0771.R5.09082022

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