Children and teenagers who take antidepressants are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, research has suggested.
US study findings of nearly just over 119,000 young people from the age of five to 20 revealed those who took medication for mental health were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
However, this was only an association and not a causal link. The researchers behind the study say further research is needed to “shed light on the underlying biological mechanisms of treatment-emergent type 2 diabetes associated with antidepressants”.
Previous research into the subject has already shown a link between type 2 diabetes and antidepressant use, but not much is known about the effect of the drugs in young people.
The class of drugs which were mainly focused on during the trial were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which are currently the most prescribed types of antidepressant.
SSRIs help to treat depression as they boost the brain’s nerve cells which are used to regulate emotion and SNRIs ease the condition by impacting neurotransmitters or chemical messengers which communicate between brain cells.
Some of the conditions the young people were being treated for included depressive disorders (37.4 per cent), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (25.9 per cent) and anxiety disorders (17.7 per cent).
Higher doses and duration of taking specific drugs were found to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The University of Maryland in Baltimore researchers wrote: “To our knowledge, this is the first population-based study of youths that comprehensively examines the risk of incident type 2 diabetes following treatment initiation with an antidepressant.”
The study team was unable to rule exactly why the risk of type 2 diabetes increased in those who took antidepressants.
The findings of the study have been published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal.

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