Depression linked to higher death rates among elderly diabetics

October 1st, 2008 - 3:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 1 (IANS) Depression was linked to a higher death rate from all causes during a two-year study period of a large group of Medicare beneficiaries. Co-author Wayne Katon, professor of psychiatry, University of Washington (UW), noted that previous research indicates that depression and diabetes is a potentially lethal mix among young to middle-aged patients.

Depression also puts patients at greater risk of complications from their diabetes. This more recent study suggests that depression is also a risk factor for mortality in older patients with diabetes.

Most medicare beneficiaries, like the ones in this study, are aged over 65. The mean age of the participants was 75.6 years.

The study tracked 10,704 Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes who were enrolled in a disease management programme in Florida. They were surveyed at the start of the study with a health assessment questionnaire.

Evidence of depression among members of the group came from physician diagnosis, patient reports of having a prescription for an antidepressant in the year before the survey, or patient answers to a brief screening test.

For the next two years, the research team recorded the death and cause of death of participants through bi-monthly checks of Medicare claims and eligibility files, or from phone calls with the participants’ families.

The research team found that patients with both diabetes and depression had an increased risk of about 36 percent to 38 percent of dying from any cause during the two-year follow-up, according to a UW release.

Participants with a physician diagnosis of depression were significantly younger than their cohorts, more likely to be female, had more severe medical illness, were less likely to be African-American, and more likely to be Hispanic.

Participants who had been treated with one or more antidepressant medications in the year before the study had a 24 percent increased risk of mortality, compared to non-depressed participants.

The authors noted their study’s limitations: the participants were from one geographic region of the United States, and the follow-up period was relatively short.

The findings will be published in the October edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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