Social support improves diabetes management

A new US based study reveals that social support from family and friends has an impact on a person’s ability to manage their diabetes. This was particularly true for people living with type 2 diabetes.

For people who feel vulnerable, changes to daily lifestyle, like new diets or exercise, can be difficult to maintain without the social support offered by family and friends.

A perceived lack of support can lead diabetes-related distress and derail management and treatment.

The emotional toll of managing diabetes

Using well established clinical tools that measure diabetes distress, researchers found that when participants felt more socially supported, their diabetes-related distress decreased.

Too often diabetes treatment is understood as a simple process of taking medications and monitoring blood glucose. But diabetes is a chronic condition that requires a great deal of mental and emotional energy. When energy for managing the condition runs low it can impact a person’s care.

Diabetes-related complications are highest among people with lower socioeconomic status. Yet, few studies have investigated the nature of diabetes distress and social support on diverse populations with type 2 diabetes.

This study conducted by Family Health Services in the US included participants aged between 40 and 80 years of age. Almost 75%, were classified as being in a lower socioeconomic bracket.

It found that strong social support was important to effective diabetes self-management. It also helped reduce the risks of diabetes-related hospitalisation and death.

Early intervention the key to reducing risk

Researchers are encouraging healthcare teams to focus on both the medical care of people with diabetes as well as their support system. This is seen as the best way of ensuring good diabetes management reducing diabetes-related complications.

Early conversations between GPs, healthcare teams and patients should include an assessment of their social support. If the support is found to be inadequate then thought should be put into building networks and additional supports into diabetes care plans.

This study was originally published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

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