Gastrointestinal symptoms in diabetes mellitus, and their relation to anxiety and depression

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012 May;96(2):248-55. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2012.01.021. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Background: Prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms is increased in patients with diabetes mellitus. In general, GI symptoms are influenced by psychological factors such as anxiety and depression, but little is known about this association in diabetic patients.

Aim: We tested the hypothesis that anxiety and depression have major impact on GI symptoms in diabetic patients.

Methods: 280 diabetic patients and 355 non-diabetic, age and sex matched controls were studied by validated questionnaires: (1) PAGI-SYM and GSRS for common GI symptoms and (2) HADS for anxiety and depression. Data were compared using logistic regression analysis.

Results: Patients with diabetes scored significantly (p<0.05) higher on the symptoms diarrhea (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.05-2.56), early satiety (OR 2.50, 95% CI 1.39-4.49) and bloating (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.03-2.43), but not on other symptoms. Prevalence of anxiety and depression (HADS scores ≥ 8) in diabetics and controls was respectively 27.5% and 20.6% for anxiety (p<0.05), and 19.6% and 13.4% for depression (p<0.05). After adjusting for anxiety and depression only the GI symptom "early satiety" remained significantly more prevalent in the patients with diabetes.

Conclusions: The prevalence of the gastrointestinal symptoms diarrhea, bloating and early satiety, and of anxiety and depression is significantly increased in our cohort of predominantly patients with longstanding type 2 diabetes mellitus compared to controls. When adjusted for anxiety and depression, only the gastrointestinal symptom "early satiety" remained more prevalent in these diabetic patients, pointing to a somatic based origin. Thus, in our diabetic population psychological factors to a large extent are associated with gastrointestinal symptoms and should be taken into account when considering treatment of the gastrointestinal symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged