Clinical depression versus distress among patients with type 2 diabetes: Not just a question of semantics

Lawrence Fisher*, Marilyn M. Skaff, Joseph T. Mullan, Patricia Arean, David Mohr, Umesh Masharani, Russell Glasgow, Grace Laurencin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

373 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE - We sought to determine differences between structured interviews, symptom questionnaires, and distress measures for assessment of depression in patients with diabetes. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS - We assessed 506 diabetic patients for major depressive disorder (MDD) by a structured interview (Composite International Diagnostic Interview [CIDI]), a questionnaire for depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale [CESD]), and on the Diabetes Distress Scale. Demographic characteristics, two biological variables (A1C and non-HDL cholesterol), and four behavioral management measures (kilocalories, calories of saturated fat, number of fruit and vegetable servings, and minutes of physical activity) were assessed. Comparisons were made between those with and without depression on the CIDI and the CESD. RESULTS - Findings showed that 22% of patients reached CESD ≥16, and 9.9% met a CIDI diagnosis of MDD. Of those above CESD cut points, 70% were not clinically depressed, and 34% of those who were clinically depressed did not reach CESD scores ≥16. Those scoring ≥16, compared with those <16 on the CESD, had higher A1C, kilocalories, and calories of saturated fat and lower physical activity. No differences were found using the CIDI. Diabetes distress was minimally related to MDD but substantively linked to CESD scores and to outcomes. CONCLUSIONS - Most patients with diabetes and high levels of depressive symptoms are not clinically depressed. The CESD may be more reflective of general emotional and diabetes-specific distress than clinical depression. Most treatment of distress, however, is based on the depression literature, which suggests the need to consider different interventions for distressed but not clinically depressed diabetic patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-548
Number of pages7
JournalDiabetes care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing
  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical depression versus distress among patients with type 2 diabetes: Not just a question of semantics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this