Women’s Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Double when Coupled with PTSD

Women’s Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Double when Coupled with PTSD

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Results of a study conducted by Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and Harvard School of Public Health show that women who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared with women who don’t have PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusive Memories – recurrent or unwanted distressing memories of a traumatic event; reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again; upsetting dreams about the event; physical reactions or severe emotional distress to something that reminds the person of the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance – trying to stop thinking about or talking about the traumatic event; staying away from people, activities or places that remind a person of the traumatic event.
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood – feeling emotionally numb; lack of interest in activities a person once enjoyed; hopelessness about the future; negative feelings about one’s self or other people; lack of positive emotion; memory problems; difficulty maintaining close relationships;
  • Changes in Emotional Reactions – irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior; always on guard for danger; self-destructive behavior; trouble concentrating; trouble sleeping; being easily startled or frightened; overwhelming shame or guilt.

The results of the long-time study (1989-2011) showing a connective relationship between PTSD and type 2 diabetes was first published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study reflected: The greater the number and severity of PTSD symptoms, the greater a woman’s risk of type 2 diabetes. The use of antidepressants and elevated body mass index accounted for nearly half of the increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

One in nine women will have PTSD during her lifetime, which is twice the rate of men. Women also are more likely to suffer from extreme traumatic events, such as rape, which carries a high risk for PTSD.

“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 C. Koenen, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School.

“Women with PTSD and the health professionals who care for them should be aware that these women are at greater risk for diabetes,” said first author Andrea L. Roberts, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health. “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.”

The co-study by Mailman School and Harvard School of Public Health adds to the past findings by the researchers, including a 2013 study that reported a link between PTSD and obesity. Other research has shown a link between mental health issues, such as anxiety, social phobia and agoraphobia, and type 2 diabetes.

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