Many Patients Do Not Receive Support Needed for Emotional Aspects of Living With Diabetes


A study of self-reported data from more than 9000 people found overall need for better access to psychological and other non-medical diabetes care for people living with diabetes and their caregivers.

A survey found that 18% of people living with diabetes in Denmark needed a referral for a psychologist, but had not been offered one, and 36% said they did not receive the support they needed to cope with their emotions related to diabetes. The data comes from the largest nationwide Danish survey to characterize a major need for better access to psychological and other nonmedical diabetes care.

Results of the study, “Psychological Impact and Need for Psychological Care and Support: What Do People with Diabetes and Caregivers Say? Results of a Scientific Survey of 9,869 People with Diabetes and Caregivers in Denmark,” were presented Friday during the American Diabetes Association’s® (ADA’s) 80th Virtual Scientific Sessions.

The Danish Diabetes Association, Steno Diabetes Center North Denmark, Aalborg University Hospital, and Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark designed a national diabetes survey, “Life with Diabetes 2019,” to benchmark impact to daily life, access to care and access to technology and services in order to discover top desires and priorities. Researchers sent out email invitations to 38,820 members of the Danish Diabetes Association. Responses to the survey represented all Danish regions, and the age and gender of respondents were similar to the characteristics of the national population.

Responses from 8918 people with diabetes and 761 caregivers were analyzed. Of the participants with diabetes, 71% had type 2 diabetes, and 26% had type 1 diabetes.
The responses showed:

  • Although most participants reported generally having access to quality medical diabetes care, approximately 20% of people with diabetes said they experienced a psychological negative impact due to their diabetes “most or all of the time.”
  • About 19% of people with diabetes reported feeling that “diabetes is taking up too much of their daily life,” and 18% of people felt they needed a referral for a psychologist yet had not been offered one.
  • Approximately 36% of people with diabetes and 21% of caregivers indicated they are not getting the “support they need to deal with diabetes-related emotions.”
  • 19% of respondents saw a need for a major system-wide improvement in support for dealing with the mental aspect of living with the condition.
  • Women made up 51% of total respondents and were twice as likely as men to feel they needed a psychologist (24% vs. 12%).

“We also found that people who are involuntarily unemployed, people using insulin for type 2 diabetes, and people who have multiple health issues are at higher risks for negative psychological outcomes,” said Soren E. Skovlund, MsC, the study’s lead author, and senior research scientist, Steno Diabetes Center North Denmark, Aalborg University Hospital and the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University.

Additional analyses of more than 1100 open text responses revealed that people with diabetes suffer psychosocial affects due to gaps in multiple aspects of care, including access to new technology, quality care in a primary practice setting, and local support for overall well-being.

“Our study highlights that efforts to support vulnerable populations should be multi-pronged and include a psychologist’s care”, said Skovlund. “The psychological impact of diabetes and the opportunities that exist to mitigate it, including optimal access to novel technologies, better individual medical care and person-centered self-management support services should not be underestimated. Integration of psychosocial aspects of living with diabetes is a prerequisite for improving the long-term health and quality of life outcomes for many people with diabetes and their families.”

One in Three People with Diabetes Do Not Receive Support Needed to Deal with Emotional Aspects of Living with Diabetes [news release]. Chicago, IL; June 12, 2020: ADA [email]. Accessed June 13, 2020.

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