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Diabetologia. 2008 Oct;51(10):1822-5. doi: 10.1007/s00125-008-1113-x. Epub 2008 Aug 9.

Differentiating symptoms of depression from diabetes-specific distress: relationships with self-care in type 2 diabetes.

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Behavioral Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, One Bowdoin Square, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms and diabetes-specific distress and the independent relationships of each of these factors with diabetes self-care. We expected that symptoms of depression would be associated with poorer diabetes self-care, independent of diabetes-specific distress.


We surveyed 848 primary care patients with type 2 diabetes using the Harvard Department of Psychiatry/National Depression Screening Day Scale (HANDS), Problem Areas in Diabetes scale (PAID), Summary of Diabetes Self-Care Activities, and self-reported medication adherence.


The PAID and HANDS scores were positively correlated in the overall sample (r=0.54, p<0.0001), among those who did not meet diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD) based on the HANDS screening result (n=685; r=0.36, p<0.001) and in patients who did meet the screening criteria for MDD (n=163; r=0.36, p<0.001). Higher PAID scores significantly predicted lower levels of diet, exercise and medication adherence (all p values <0.05). However, once depression symptom scores were entered into these models, most relationships were reduced to non-significance, while the HANDS score retained significant relationships with most indices of diabetes self-care. The same pattern of results was found in the subset of patients who did not screen positive for MDD.


These results suggest that specific symptoms of depression have a greater negative relationship with diabetes self-care than diabetes-specific distress, even among those patients who do not meet screening criteria for MDD. Interventions that focus on improving the management of specific symptoms of depression may be more effective in improving self-care than those that focus on reducing distress.

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