Diabetes impacts psychological health: MILES-2

By Mardi Chapman

30 Jan 2017

A new report has highlighted the psychosocial impact of living with diabetes – with over a third of adults with insulin-treated type 2 diabetes and a quarter with type 1 diabetes reporting moderate to severe depressive symptoms.

The Diabetes MILES-2 report also found high levels of diabetes distress and diabetes-related stigma yet few people were engaging with support groups.

Dr Adriana Ventura, psychologist and research fellow at The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes, said the situation had not improved since a similar survey in 2011.

“We need more awareness that there is a psychological burden associated with living with diabetes. Health professionals need to be listening to their patients and asking questions about how they are coping,” she told the limbic.

The report found almost a quarter (24%) of people with type 1 diabetes reported high levels of diabetes stress including worry about their future health and guilt or anxiety about managing their diabetes.

“We think people are doing a good job managing their physical health but there is a backlash or overwhelm that is overtaking their social or emotional needs,” Dr Ventura said.

She said it was important to recognise that the impact of diabetes on a patient’s psychological health was likely to change as they aged and their disease progressed.

“Our research shows there are critical times such as when people with type 2 diabetes step up from tablets to insulin.”

“Offering psychological support should be seen as a legitimate component of diabetes care however not everyone needs to see a psychologist. Doctors and diabetes educators can deal with most issues within the clinical context,” she said.

People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes said they had perceived or experienced stigma associated with their diabetes – for example, feeling judged about their food choices or their use of insulin in public.

She said lifestyle advice should be delivered using non-judgmental language and a motivational interviewing approach rather than ineffective, fear-based tactics.

A Diabetes and Emotional Health Handbook and toolkit launched last year are freely available online for health professionals.

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