Depression, Diabetes Share Common Risk Factors, Treatment Approaches


“Living in a neighborhood environment that supports healthy lifestyle changes, such as a place with more fitness facilities or more green spaces to walk, seems to protect the mental health of people with diabetes,” study co-author Geneviève Gariépy, PhD, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, told Psychiatry Advisor. “In addition to this, people with diabetes that are able to exercise more because they live in an exercise-friendly neighborhood might be benefiting from the antidepressant effect of physical activity itself.”

She suggests that when consulting with patients who have diabetes, clinicians might consider helping them identify neighborhood resources that could help support increased exercise. If such resources are scarce, the clinician could refer them to nearby community centers or organized fitness programs. 

Research published this year in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that a healthy diet consisting of vegetables and leafy greens, fruits and whole grains significantly reduced odds of depression.6 The effect was especially pronounced for people with diabetes: Those who consumed a healthy diet had 32% lower odds of depression than people with diabetes who did not have a healthy eating pattern.

“A great body of research has been built up over the past five plus years as to the importance of a healthy diet for a healthy mind,” and a healthy diet has also been shown to benefit people with Type 2 Diabetes,” study co-author Joanna Dipnall told Psychiatry Advisor. “The bottom line is that what people put in their mouths not only influences their physical health but also their mental health.” Clinicians can use these findings to educate patients about the benefits of healthy eating in helping to combat both diabetes and depression, suggests Dipnall, who is a PhD candidate and statistician at the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre at the School of Medicine at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia.

The onset of depression and diabetes are appearing earlier in the population, and additional research is needed to understand their shared vulnerabilities, which account for disproportionate amounts of morbidity and mortality, says Malaspina. “Careful management of both conditions and an improved lifestyle of healthy eating, rest, and adequate leisure and social support can interrupt this cycle of mental and metabolic diseases.”

Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC, is a psychotherapist and freelance writer based in Atlanta.


  1. Rosedale M, Strauss SM, Knight C, Malaspina D. Awareness of Prediabetes and Diabetes among Persons with Clinical Depression. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2015: 839152.
  2. van Dooren FE, Nefs G, Schram MT, et al. Depression and risk of mortality in people with diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE. 2013; 8(3):e57058. 
  3. Atlantis E, Fahey P, Foster J. Collaborative care for comorbid depression and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2014; 4:e004706.
  4. Gangwisch JE, Gross R, Malaspina D. Differential Associations Between Depression, Risk Factors for Insulin Resistance and Diabetes Incidence in a Large U.S. Sample. The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences. 2015; 52(2):85-90.
  5. Gariepy G, Kaufman JS, Blair A, et al. Place and health in diabetes: the neighbourhood environment and risk of depression in adults with type 2 diabetes. Diabetic Medicine: A Journal of the British Diabetic Association. 2015; 32(7):944-50.
  6. Dipnall JF, Pasco JA, Meyer D, et al. The association between dietary patterns, diabetes and depression. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2015; 174:215-24.