Older Adults With Diabetes Have Higher Prevalence of Depressive Symptoms

This new study investigated the prevalence of and health factors that are associated with depressive symptoms in older adults with diabetes.

Examining older adults with diabetes for depressive symptoms is vital, as the association between depressive symptoms and older adults with diabetes is significant, according to a new study published in Sao Paulo Medical Journal.

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

Adults who were enrolled in the Monitoring and Control Service of Hypertension and Diabetes at 4 Basic Healthcare Units (BHU) were included in this cross-sectional study. The research was conducted in 4 BHU areas, with a random draw from the 91 micro-areas. A community health agent was tasked with helping during home visits and to assist the research team in locating residences. Inclusion criteria included being an older adult with type 2 diabetes, 60 years and older, and enrolled in the BHU area.

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

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

There were 236 older adults with diabetes included in the study. The majority were female (76.7%), and the mean (SD) age was 71.6 (8.03) years. Sixty-four percent of the participants declared Brown ethnicity, 81.4% did not have a partner, and 61.9% had primary or lower education.

A total of 24.2% of the older adults with diabetes reported having depressive symptoms. Female participants without a partner were the most common patient type in this group, but this connection 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 drinking compared with 1.1% of those without depressive symptoms who do drink excessively. Significant associations with depressive symptoms were also found in the existence of any diabetes complications (59.6%) and ocular (48.1%) and circulatory (38.9%) types of diabetes complications. Rheumatism (50.9%), heart and circulation problems (61.4%), difficulty sleeping (64.9%), and severe chronic pain (77.2%) were all associated with depressive symptoms in older adults with diabetes, as a majority of people who reported depressive symptoms also reported these health conditions.

The researcher concluded that this study was in line with previous studies in finding that depressive symptoms were highly prevalent in older adults with type 2 diabetes.

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


Andrade DMB, Rocha RM, Ribeiro IJS. Depressive symptoms among older adults 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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