Post-traumatic stress doubles diabetes risk in women

Research provides the 'strongest evidence to date of a causal relationship between PTSD and type 2 diabetes'

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Women who suffer from post-traumatic stress are almost twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as women not affected by the disorder known as PTSD, a U.S. study said Wednesday.

The research in the journal JAMA Psychiatry was led by public health scientists at Columbia University and Harvard University, and provides the “strongest evidence to date of a causal relationship between PTSD and type 2 diabetes,” the journal said in a statement.

The data was based on surveys given to nearly 50,000 U.S. women from 1989 to 2011.

Researchers found that about half the increased risk for diabetes was attributable to the use of antidepressants (34 percent) and overeating, as measured by elevated body mass index (14 percent).

But the other half of the heightened risk could not be explained, and researchers ruled out potential links to smoking, diet, alcohol intake or exercise.

The study also found that the more symptoms of PTSD a woman had, the higher her risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

About one in nine women experience PTSD at some point, which is twice the rate among men, according to background information in the article.

“Not only is PTSD devastating to mental health, but it affects physical health too, raising risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity,” said senior author Karestan Koenen, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School at Columbia University.

Researchers urged healthcare professionals to be on the lookout for signs of diabetes in women who have endured traumatic events.

“As fewer than half of Americans with PTSD receive treatment, our study adds urgency to the effort to improve access to mental health care to address factors that contribute to diabetes and other chronic diseases,” said first author Andrea Roberts, research associate in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health.