In Women, PTSD May Raise Diabetes Risk

HealthDay News — Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seem more likely than others to develop type 2 diabetes, with severe PTSD almost doubling the risk, a new study suggests.

The new study, published online in JAMA Psychiatry, followed 49,739 female nurses from 1989 to 2008 — aged 24 to 42 at the beginning — and tracked weight, smoking, exposure to trauma, PTSD symptoms and type 2 diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels. Untreated, the disease can cause serious problems such as blindness or kidney damage.

Over the course of the study, more than 3,000 of the nurses, or 6 percent, developed type 2 diabetes, which is linked to being overweight and sedentary. Those with the most PTSD symptoms were almost twice as likely to develop diabetes as those without PTSD, said study co-author Karestan Koenen, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

The study doesn’t prove that PTSD directly causes diabetes, although Koenen said the study’s design allows the researchers to “know that PTSD came before type 2 diabetes.”

Since PTSD disrupts various systems in the body, such as those that manage stress hormones, “it may be that something about PTSD changes women’s biology and increases risk” of diabetes, she said.

Use of antidepressants and higher body weight accounted for almost half the increased risk, Koenen said. “The antidepressant finding was surprising because as far as we know, no one has shown it before,” she said. “Much more research needs to be done to determine what the finding means.”

Obesity explains some, but not all, of the relationship, she said. And what about men?

“Our findings are consistent with findings for male veterans,” Koenen said. “Studies need to be done in men in the general population, but based on these data we would expect findings to be similar.”


Roberts AL, et al. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in a Sample of Women: A 22-Year Longitudinal Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2632.