‘Heads Up’ – End diabetes blame and shame

Widespread community misunderstanding and stigma about diabetes are driving high rates of mental health problems for people living with diabetes experts warned today.

Despite nearly two million Australians living with diabetes, it is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatised health conditions in the country.

Diabetes stigma

Up to 80 per cent of people with diabetes report feeling blamed or shamed for living with the condition, and more than 25 per cent say other people’s attitudes and stereotypes about diabetes are negatively impacting their mental health.

Almost 50 per cent of people with diabetes have experienced a mental health issue relating to diabetes in the past twelve months.

Attitudes to diabetes

A new survey commissioned by Diabetes Australia has revealed significant community misunderstanding about diabetes:

  • As many as 85 per cent of people in the community believe people with diabetes shouldn’t eat sugary foods or drinks
  • Only 43 per cent of people understand that not all people with diabetes are overweight.

Experts believe community misunderstandings of diabetes are driving a common misconception that diabetes is simply a lifestyle condition caused by being overweight. In reality, there are many different types of diabetes. It is a complex set of conditions, with many different risk factors including genetics and family history, age, physical inactivity, other medical conditions, and medications used, and other factors influencing a person risk of developing diabetes.

New advertising campaign

Diabetes Australia has launched a new, powerful advertising campaign as part of National Diabetes Week (11 – 17 July) to call for an end to the diabetes blame and shame.

Professor Greg Johnson, CEO Diabetes Australia said people with diabetes were routinely stigmatised about aspects of their lifestyle and diabetes.

“Diabetes has an image problem and a stigma problem. Around 80 per cent of people with diabetes say they’ve been blamed or shamed for having the condition,” Professor Johnson said.

“Some common examples include people with diabetes being blamed for causing their diabetes or its complications, and being judged when eating certain foods.

“Over 450,000 Australians with diabetes need to use insulin every day to stay healthy yet many are being shamed for using insulin or checking their glucose levels in public.

Would you mind?

“This year we are asking people in the community to ask themselves – ‘Would you mind’ if you were blamed, shamed or judged for having a serious health condition that anyone could develop?

“Nobody chooses to get diabetes – no matter what type of diabetes they have.

Diabetes is a complex range of conditions with many different types and stages and while diet and being overweight is a contributing factor for many people with type 2 diabetes, there are many other contributing risk factors for diabetes that needed to be understood.”

“Nobody should be blamed or shamed about having diabetes.”

ACBRD Research

Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes, Professor Jane Speight said diabetes stigma has major implications for how people manage their condition.

“Diabetes is not a joke, and stigma is more than just hurtful words and actions. It can have a significant impact on a person’s physical, mental and social well-being,”

Professor Speight said. “It can cause people to delay or skip medications, which can increase their risk of serious diabetes-related complications. It also affects their willingness to seek help and support from others, including from health professionals.”

What the research found

Our research has found:

  • 52% of people with type 2 diabetes say people assume they are overweight or have been in the past
  • 37% of people with type 2 diabetes say people judge them for their food choices
  • 26% of people with type 2 diabetes have been told they brought it on themselves
  • 67% of people with type 1 diabetes say they are judged if they eat sugary foods or drinks
  • 55% say some people assume it is their fault that they have type 1 diabetes
  • 31% don’t tell other people they have type 1 diabetes, to avoid negative reactions

Find out more

Diabetes Australia has launched two new television advertisements to highlight the issue. You can view them here and here. To find out more visit www.headsupondiabetes.com.au

Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes