Coping with diabetes: Social support and positive outlook are most important

Maintaining a positive outlook and getting support from friends and family can help diabetes patients cope with challenges of the disease, according to researchers from Penn State College of Medicine.

The Second Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs (DAWN2) study included 8,596 people with diabetes living in 17 countries and represents the largest analysis of personal experiences related by diabetics.

The original DAWN study, which was conducted in 2001, found that 41 percent of adult diabetics have poor psychosocial well-being, and the DAWN2 study found that 46 percent of people with the condition have had negative experiences - emotional or psychological in nature - related to diabetes.

Major themes

When surveyed about negative experiences, a few themes emerged: People with diabetes reported discrimination at work and feeling misunderstood by others. They also said they have experienced anxiety, fear, depression and hopelessness about having diabetes.

Yet when asked about their successes with the condition (or what factors helped them cope the most), two themes also stood out: maintaining a positive outlook and having support from loved ones.

"We found that although these negative experiences with diabetes exist, people also held on to the positives," said Heather Stuckey, lead investigator for DAWN2. "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 explained that many people with diabetes are hesitant to share their struggles with loved ones, but this only creates isolation and inhibits people from knowing how to help.

"We would like to encourage patients to be able to share their thoughts and experiences about having diabetes with family members and other trusted individuals," Stuckey said. "We believe that will relieve some of the stress that people experience and will improve living with diabetes."

Source: Penn State

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