Incident Major Depressive Disorder Predicted by Three Measures of Insulin Resistance: A Dutch Cohort Study

Kathleen T. Watson, Julia F. Simard, Victor W. Henderson, Lexi Nutkiewicz, Femke Lamers, Carla Nasca, Natalie Rasgon, Brenda W. J. H. Penninx

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OBJECTIVE: Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Yet, there remain significant challenges in predicting new cases of major depression and devising strategies to prevent the disorder. An important first step in this process is identifying risk factors for the incidence of major depression. There is accumulating biological evidence linking insulin resistance, another highly prevalent condition, and depressive disorders. The objectives of this study were to examine whether three surrogate measures of insulin resistance (high triglyceride-HDL [high-density lipoprotein] ratio; prediabetes, as indicated by fasting plasma glucose level; and high central adiposity, as measured by waist circumference) at the time of study enrollment were associated with an increased rate of incident major depressive disorder over a 9-year follow-up period and to assess whether the new onset of these surrogate measures during the first 2 years after study enrollment was predictive of incident major depressive disorder during the subsequent follow-up period. METHODS: The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) is a multisite longitudinal study of the course and consequences of depressive and anxiety disorders in adults. The study population comprised 601 NESDA participants (18-65 years old) without a lifetime history of depression or anxiety disorders. The study's outcome was incident major depressive disorder, defined using DSM-IV criteria. Exposure measures included triglyceride-HDL ratio, fasting plasma glucose level, and waist circumference. RESULTS: Fourteen percent of the sample developed major depressive disorder during follow-up. Cox proportional hazards models indicated that higher triglyceride-HDL ratio was positively associated with an increased risk for incident major depression (hazard ratio=1.89, 95% CI=1.15, 3.11), as were higher fasting plasma glucose levels (hazard ratio=1.37, 95% CI=1.05, 1.77) and higher waist circumference (hazard ratio=1.11 95% CI=1.01, 1.21). The development of prediabetes in the 2-year period after study enrollment was positively associated with incident major depressive disorder (hazard ratio=2.66, 95% CI=1.13, 6.27). The development of high triglyceride-HDL ratio and high central adiposity (cut-point ≥100 cm) in the same period was not associated with incident major depression. CONCLUSIONS: Three surrogate measures of insulin resistance positively predicted incident major depressive disorder in a 9-year follow-up period among adults with no history of depression or anxiety disorder. In addition, the development of prediabetes between enrollment and the 2-year study visit was positively associated with incident major depressive disorder. These findings may have utility for evaluating the risk for the development of major depression among patients with insulin resistance or metabolic pathology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-920
Number of pages7
JournalThe American Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Insulin Resistance
  • Major Depressive Disorder

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