Depressive symptoms and cerebral microvascular disease in adults with Type 1 diabetes mellitus

K. A. Nunley, J. F. Karp, T. J. Orchard, T. Costacou, H. J. Aizenstein, J. R. Jennings, C. Rosano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Aim: To assess the prevalence of, and risk factors for, depressive symptoms, comparing a sample of middle-aged adults with and without juvenile-onset Type 1 diabetes mellitus, and to determine if depressive symptoms were associated with white matter hyperintensity volume among those with Type 1 diabetes. Methods: Depressive symptoms and white matter hyperintensities were compared between adults (age range 30–65 years) with juvenile-onset Type 1 diabetes (n=130) and adults without Type 1 diabetes (n=133). The association of Type 1 diabetes with depression was computed before and after adjustment for white matter hyperintensities. Among the Type 1 diabetes group, the primary associations of interest were between depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory score ≥10) and white matter hyperintensities (n=71), hyperglycaemia and physical activity. Associations between depressive symptoms and diabetes-related complications, cognitive impairment, smoking and self-reported disability were examined. Analyses were controlled for education, sex, age and antidepressant use. Results: Depressive symptoms were more prevalent among those with vs those without Type 1 diabetes (28% vs 3%; P<0.001). White matter hyperintensities explained 40% of the association of Type 1 diabetes with depressive symptoms, while Type 1 diabetes had a direct effect of 68% on depressive symptoms. Among those with Type 1 diabetes, depressive symptoms were related to white matter hyperintensity volume, a 16-year average HbA1c ≥58 mmol/mol (7.5%), and lower physical activity levels. Associations with other characteristics were not significant. Conclusion: These findings suggest a cerebrovascular origin for depressive symptoms in adults with Type 1 diabetes, perhaps triggered by hyperglycaemia. Future longitudinal studies should investigate whether targeting hyperglycaemia and physical inactivity alleviates depressive symptoms, possibly by slowing the development of cerebral microvascular disease, in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1175
Number of pages8
JournalDiabetic Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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