Patients With Diabetes Need Psychological Care


Survey findings highlight the psychological and psychosocial distress related to having diabetes.

Soren Skovlund, MSc, Dgr

Soren Skovlund, MSc, Dgr

Patients with diabetes are not receiving the support they need to deal with the emotional aspects of living with the condition.

The findings, presented at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA’s) 80th Virtual Scientific Sessions, suggested 18% of patients living with diabetes in Denmark needed a referral for a psychologist but had not been offered 1, and 36% said they did not receive the support they needed to cope with their emotions related to diabetes.

“Our study highlights that efforts to support vulnerable populations should be multi-pronged and include a psychologist’s care,” Soren Skovlund, MSc, Dgr, said in a statement.

Skovlund, a senior research scientist with the Value-Based Diabetes Care Programme, and a team of investigators aimed to characterize the need for access to psychological care and self-care support for People With Diabetes and Caregivers in Denmark. Data collected came from the largest nationwide Danish survey, “Life with Diabetes 2019.” The survey was designed by the Danish Diabetes Association, Steno Diabetes Center North Denmark, Aalborg University Hospital, and Aalborg University to benchmark impact on daily life, access to care, technology, and services to discover top desires and priorities.

The survey represented all Danish regions and the age and gender were similar to the characteristics of the national population. The team analyzed responses from 8918 patients with diabetes and 761 caregivers. Among the patients, 71% had type 2 diabetes and 26% had type 1 diabetes. Women made up more than half of the total respondents (51%) and were twice as likely to feel the need for a psychologist (24% vs 12%).

A majority of the patients reported having access to quality medical diabetes care, but approximately 20% of respondents with diabetes said they experienced a negative psychological impact due to the condition “most or all of the time.” What’s more, nearly 20% of patients with diabetes said the condition was taking up too much of their daily life, while 18% felt they needed a referral for a psychologist but had not been offered such a service.

Among the respondents, 36% of patients with diabetes, and 21% of caregivers said they were not getting the “support they need to deal with diabetes-related emotions.” Overall, 19% of respondents said there was a need for a major system-wide improvement in support for dealing with the mental aspect of living with diabetes.

The investigators also found people who were involuntarily unemployed, people using insulin for type 2 diabetes, and those who had multiple health issues were at higher risks for negative psychological outcomes, Skovlund said.

An additional analysis of >1100 open text responses suggested people with diabetes suffered psychosocial effects due to gaps in many aspects of care, including access to new technology, quality care in a primary practice setting, and local support for overall well-being.

“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 under-estimated,” Skovlund said. “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.”

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,” was presented at ADA 2020.

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