The American Journal of Epidemiology just published research by Shakira Suglia finding that high depression symptoms in both adolescence and adulthood are associated with onset of Type II diabetes among women. Among men however an opposite effect was noted in that men who experienced high depression symptoms in both adolescence and adulthood had a lower odds of Type II diabetes after accounting for BMI, physical activity, sleep duration, smoking and alcohol use. This research suggests that the onset of depression early in life conveys sex specific effects for the development of Type II diabetes.
Past work on the link between depression and Type II diabetes has measured both depression and diabetes status in adulthood limiting the ability of most studies to identify the temporality of the association – subclinical Type II diabetes risk factors may simply contribute to both depression and clinical Type II diabetes development later in life. Since risk factors and health behaviors that impact obesity and diabetes track from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood, Suglia and colleagues took a life course approach to identifying risk factors for Type II diabetes. Their work used data from the Add Health study which is a nationally representative school-based, longitudinal study of the health-related behaviors of adolescents and health outcomes in adulthood.
The sex specific associations suggest gendered responses, either behavioral or physiological, to symptoms of depression that in turn put women at risk of diabetes but convey a protective risk for men. However, their analyses of adult patterns of physical activity, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption and sleep by sex and depressive symptoms found similar links between depression and behaviors in men and women; suggesting that behavioral differences did not explain the sex specific associations. Suglia and colleagues suggest that future studies should explore whether sex specific responses to depression involve hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation or other physiological pathways.