Targeting depression can help diabetes patients improve overall health.

Targeting depression can help diabetes patients improve overall health.

By Liz Lockhart

A very interesting article has just been printed on the website.  It states that very frequently, depression and diabetes go hand in hand and that depression can be a major obstacle for people living with diabetes, making it less likely that they will stick to a medicine schedule or exercise regimen.

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan Health System worked to improve diabetes patients’ health by first addressing their depression.  The study evaluated a year-long program that began with behavioural therapy sessions over the telephone with a specially trained nurse and later phased in a walking program. 

The findings showed that this intervention was successful in lowering patients’ blood pressure, increasing their physical activity by about four miles of walking a week and easing their depressive symptoms.

‘Depression is a common, treatable issue for many people who have diabetes.’ Says study lead author John Piette PhD, a senior research scientist at the VA and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.  ‘Unfortunately, most busy clinics cannot provide the level of intensive care these patients need.  This study shows the telephone-delivered counselling can improve patients’ access to effective depression care, improve their cardiovascular health and get them moving again.’

It was further suggested that ‘Health systems should consider routinely offering structured telephone psychotherapy to their patients with diabetes and depression.’ Says senior study author Marcia Valenstein, MD MS an associate professor of psychiatry at the U-M Medical School and VA research scientist. ‘Patients with depression and additional chronic medical conditions do better if their depression is addressed first , if it is addressed systematically and if exercise is also encouraged.  Delivering therapy by telephone makes it feasible to reach large numbers of patients who may not attend traditional in-person appointments’.

The improvement in the diabetes patients’ health and lifestyle were considerable partly due to the counselling and partly due to the increased levels of physical activity.  Wouldn’t it be great if this type of treatment was available to diabetes patents in general.  In the absence of this being offered perhaps diabetes patients could ask their G.P. if it would be possible to have some counselling and if they could find the drive to increase their exercise regimen for themselves? 

This also goes to show just how beneficial physical exercise (even a small increase in the distance walked per week) is to us all.  Not only does it help to keep the body fit but also has a remarkable impact on our mental well being.


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