Increased type 2 diabetes risk associated with taking antidepressants

by Barbara Hewitt on September 26, 2013

Antidepressants could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes according to a systematic review carried out by researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK.

The research cautions clinicians to be extra vigilant when prescribing antidepressants as the study shows that people taking antidepressants are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and different types of antidepressants may carry different risks.


There is a higher potential risk of diabetes particularly when using antidepressants in higher doses or for longer duration, the study finds.

The use of antidepressant medication has risen sharply over recent years reaching 46.7 million prescriptions issued in the UK in 2011 and a number of studies have been carried out to establish whether antidepressants are linked with diabetes. Previous results have varied depending on the methods used, type of medication and the number of participants.

University of Southampton researchers assessed 22 studies and three previous systematic reviews that looked into the effects of antidepressants on diabetes risk. Overall, people taking antidepressants were more likely to have diabetes.

‘Antidepressants are used widely in the UK, with a significant increase in their use recently. Our research shows that when you take away all the classic risk factors of type 2 diabetes such as weight gain, lifestyle etc., there is something about antidepressants that appears to be an independent risk factor,’ said Dr Katharine Barnard, health psychologist from the University of Southampton.

The team said that there are several plausible reasons why antidepressants are associated with an increased risk of diabetes. For example, several antidepressants are associated with significant weight gain which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Several studies that explored this association still observed an increased risk of diabetes after adjustment for changes in body weight, implying other factors could be involved.

‘With 46 million prescriptions a year, this potential increased risk is worrying. Heightened alertness to the possibility of diabetes in people taking antidepressants is necessary until further research is conducted,’ said Barnard.

Richard Holt, Professor in diabetes and endocrinology at the University of Southampton, explained that while depression is an important clinical problem and antidepressants are effective treatments for this debilitating condition, clinicians need to be aware of the potential risk of diabetes, particularly when using antidepressants in higher doses or for longer duration.

‘When prescribing antidepressants, doctors should be aware of this risk and take steps to monitor for diabetes and reduce that risk of diabetes through lifestyle modification,’ he said.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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