Schizophrenia and diabetes are very different issues. Schizophrenia is a mental health condition characterized by periods of psychosis and cognitive impairment. Specifically, memory, reasoning, and cognitive functioning can be significantly impacted by schizophrenia. Even in the absence of psychotic symptoms, these deficits can persist. It has been established that the cognitive impairments in schizophrenia continue throughout the lifetime of a person and do not improve over time.
Similarly, diabetes has been shown to be linked to cognitive impairments, especially in the areas of language and memory. Although it is linked to blood glucose levels, lipid counts, and obesity, diabetes has a large effect on mental health. Additionally, people with schizophrenia have nearly double the rate of diabetes than people in the general population.
If schizophrenia and diabetes each uniquely and independently cause cognitive problems, it could be theorized that the comorbidity of these conditions could exacerbate those problems. However, to date this idea has not been tested. To provide a look into this theory, Mei Han of the Centre for Translational Neuroscience, School of Health Sciences at the University of Wollongong in Australia recently led a study involving 127 participants with schizophrenia only, 106 with diabetes only, 55 with both diabetes and schizophrenia, and 190 with neither condition. The participants were tested for visuospatial ability, memory, attention, and language.
Han found that all of the participants with schizophrenia, diabetes, or both performed worse on all the measures of cognitive functioning than the participants with no conditions. Further, the participants with either diabetes or schizophrenia performed better than those with comorbidity, especially in areas of memory and visuospatial capacity. “Schizophrenia with co-morbid diabetes showed more cognitive impairment than schizophrenia without diabetes and diabetes only, especially in immediate memory and attention,” added Han.
These findings provide further evidence of a compounding effect of cognitive erosion for diabetes and schizophrenia. Because people with schizophrenia are more likely than those without to develop diabetes, it is imperative to address risk factors for diabetes as early as possible. Interventions aimed at teaching prevention strategies should be targeted to people with schizophrenia and others most vulnerable to diabetes.
Han, M., Huang, X.-F., Chen, D.C., Xiu, M., Kosten, T.R., et al. (2013). Diabetes and cognitive deficits in chronic schizophrenia: A case-control study. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66299. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066299
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