Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may increase risk of diabetes says study

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A new study involving military personnel has found that people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder have an increased risk of developing diabetes.

The study carried out by Dr Edward J Boyko of the Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle and his colleagues involved 44,754 military personnel who enrolled in the Department of Defence’s long term Millennium Cohort Study. None of them were diagnosed with diabetes when they enrolled.

Three years later, almost 400 of these personnel, or roughly 3 in 1000 had developed diabetes. Those who developed diabetes were more likely to be older, overweight, of African-American or Asian descent, have post traumatic stress disorder and who had left the military.

The results revealed that depression didn’t contribute to the risk of developing diabetes but post traumatic stress did and after taking into consideration other factors that would normally increase the risk of diabetes, the risk of developing diabetes was more than twice as high if the individual had post traumatic stress disorder.


“In our analyses, depression really was not significantly related to the increased risk of diabetes but PTSD was” Professor Boyko told Reuters.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can result after an individual experiences an event where extreme physical or psychological harm is threatened or which actually occurs and is characterised by recurring thoughts, images and memories of that incident. Events which can lead to post traumatic stress disorder include physical attacks, natural disasters, or military combat.

Sufferers often experience nightmares, sleep problems, can become socially withdrawn, detached, and psychologically “anesthetized” by their experience, particularly with loved ones and friends and have an exaggerated response to being startled or surprised.

What the researchers found was that those who were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder had widespread inflammation in the body and had lower sensitivity to the blood-sugar regulating hormone insulin, which could lead to diabetes.

The results didn’t reveal why there should be a link between post traumatic stress disorder and diabetes or whether another factor, for example maybe drugs prescribed to treat post traumatic stress disorder, could have raised the risk.

However, before doctors start screening people with post traumatic stress disorder for diabetes more studies are required say the researchers.

“The American Diabetes Association has recommendations about when someone should be screened for diabetes, and right now we don’t need to add PTSD to that” professor Boyko told Reuters.

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