Association between depression, glycaemic control and the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in a diabetic population in Cameroon

Kirsty K. Hall, Joelle Tambekou, Linda Penn, Alioune Camara, Naby M. Balde, Eugene Sobngwi


Purpose: The prevalence of diabetes mellitus is increasing especially in low- and middle- income countries in which 75% of the world’s diabetic population reside. The macro- and microvascular complications of diabetes such as diabetic retinopathy are also set to increase in these populations. The relationship between depression and glycaemic control has been established in high- income countries, but evidence from low- and middle-income countries is scarce. This research aimed to determine an association between depression and glycaemic control and record the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in a diabetic population in Cameroon.

Methods: Analysis of cross-sectional data from the ‘Improving access to HbA1c measurements in sub-Saharan Africa’ study was used. Primary data were collected from six diabetic care facilities in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Participants were aged ≥ 18 years with at least a 6-month history of diabetes. Depression was assessed using the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). A CES-D score ≥ 16 was used to identify the presence of clinically significant depressive symptoms. Data on glycaemic control were measured using HbA1c measurements at baseline. The presence of diabetic retinopathy was established through ophthalmoscopy and angiography using the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study classification.

Results: A total of 261 participants were included in the study, and information on depressive symptoms at baseline (CES-D score) were available for 240 participants. The results of the data analysis found that 60% of the study participants had clinically significant depressive symptoms (CES-D > 16). A weak non-significant positive correlation was found between CES-D score and HbA1c level (p = 0.46, r = 0.05) using the Pearson’s correlation co-efficient. Gender and attendance to a patient support group were significantly associated with the presence of clinically significant depressive symptoms. Poor glycaemic control (HbA1c > 7%) was found in 72.8% of the population. Educational level and insulin use were significantly associated with glycaemic control. The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was 27.2% (23.4% non-proliferative, 2.5% pre- proliferative and 3.2% proliferative), and the prevalence of diabetic maculopathy was 10.0%.

Conclusion: The study found that a large proportion of diabetic patients may be experiencing depressive symptoms for which they are currently not receiving treatment or support. We also found a large proportion to have poor glycaemic control that is known to worsen the vascular complications of diabetes. In light of the increasing epidemic of type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, it is important that the recognition of depressive symptoms becomes integrated into future healthcare policies in the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. This research suggests that individuals experiencing depressive symptoms may be more likely to engage in patient support groups. These groups can be beneficial in providing patients with diabetes valuable information, which could lead to better glycaemic control.


Diabetes; Diabetes Mellitus; Diabetic Retinopathy; Depression; Public Health

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Submitted: 10 March 2016
Published: 01 June 2017

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)