People with diabetes feel “overwhelmed” by the condition

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Diabetes can significantly affect people's mental and physical health

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14th May 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Seven out of ten people with diabetes feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with the condition.

This significantly affects their mental and physical health, according to new research released today (Tuesday) by Diabetes Scotland.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults with type 1, type 2 and other types of diabetes shows that the majority (three quarters) of those who feel overwhelmed say that this affects how well they can manage the condition.

To explore the links between mental health and diabetes, the charity collected extensive insights from people affected by the condition and healthcare professionals.

The findings show diabetes is much more than a physical condition.

Angela Mitchell, director of Diabetes Scotland, said: “The day-to-day demands of managing diabetes can be a constant struggle affecting people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. People tell us that struggling emotionally can make it even more difficult to keep on top of self-management. And when diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications, such as amputations, kidney failure and stroke increases.

“We know that people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience depression. Diabetes services which include emotional and psychological support can help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save money.”

The research revealed the extent to which the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional, mental and psychological wellbeing and health − from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety. 

Management of physical symptoms 24/7 – for instance by checking blood glucose levels or managing diet – alongside the continual need to make decisions, and take actions, in order to reduce the likelihood of short and long-term complications, can affect every aspect of a person’s life. 

Coupled with what can be debilitating, temporary or longer term, physical effects of the condition, diabetes takes its toll on a person’s mental wellbeing.

Yet people felt support wasn’t there: three quarters of those needing specialist mental health support, such as from a counsellor or psychologist, to help manage the condition, could not access it; and seven out of ten people with diabetes also reported that they are not helped to talk about their emotional wellbeing by their diabetes teams.

Healthcare professionals surveyed also revealed there was more to be done in this area. Specifically, 40% of GPs say they are not likely to ask about emotional wellbeing and mental health in routine diabetes appointments, while only 30 per cent feel there is enough emotional and psychological support for people living with diabetes when needed.

The report marks the launch of a new campaign to recognise the emotional and psychological demands of living with diabetes and provide the right support to everyone who needs it.

Diabetes Scotland wants to see changes to ensure national standards for diabetes emotional and mental health services.

These include updated and stronger national health guidance on providing emotional and psychological support in routine diabetes care and for diabetes services to have access to a mental health team with knowledge of diabetes who can give both advice and provide care.

To find out more about the campaign and sign the charity’s petition, click here.