Optimism May be Newest Tool to Fight Diabetes

November 20, 2014

November is American Diabetes Month. The American Diabetes Association points to ADM as an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease, which affects 30 million Americans with 86 million more Americans at risk. The ADA explained on its website that it’s working to put focus on this common disease for the month of November with special programs and sharing of patients’ stories.

The ADA’s goal, both with ADM and overall, is to help reduce the burden of diabetes. Not only can it be a constant source of stress and physical discomfort, but the ADA estimates that, as of 2012, the U.S. spends about $245 billion on health care and medication for diabetes annually. To combat both the financial and emotional costs of diabetes, many university labs around the U.S. have conducted research into new drugs and treatments to tackle this disease. However, one of the newest university studies about diabetes isn’t related to medication at all. Instead, it’s about attitude.

A positive outlook goes a long way for diabetes care
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University conducted the largest study on personal accounts of people with diabetes ever. The Second Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs, or DAWN2, study was published in Diabetes Care and looked at 8,592 people living with diabetes. The survey was administered across 17 countries, including the U.S., and took place online, over the phone or in person.

After combing through the data received from both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients, the researchers found that a positive outlook and support from family and friends were the two biggest factors for patients to deal with the emotional component of the disease, as well as how to care for themselves.

“We believe that what’s under the surface – what people are thinking and feeling, and how they’re reacting to diabetes and making meaning of it – is what is driving poor diabetes self-management,” Heather Stuckey, Penn State assistant professor of medicine and lead qualitative investigator for DAWN2, said in a statement.

The original DAWN study, in 2001, discovered that 41 percent of adults with diabetes had “poor psychological well-being.” The new study saw that 46 percent reported some poor or negative experiences related to the disease, but Stuckey explained that, despite the negatives, people stuck to the positives for encouragement.

“Some said diabetes made their lives a little richer because they ate healthier foods, or they were able to connect with their family more to overcome challenges. It gave them a better appreciation of what they have,” Stuckey noted.

She said that family support, a positive outlook, and more understanding and openness can help minimize the negative aspects of the disease and contribute to better treatment and management. The study was funded by diabetes care manufacturer Novo Nordisk.