Diabetes: Patients Demonstrate Negative and Positive Coping Mechanisms

Dr. Heather Stuckey D.Ed Department of Medicine Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PAMedicalResearch.com: Interview with:
Dr. Heather Stuckey D.Ed
Department of Medicine
Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of this study?

Dr. Stuckey: The main findings were that people with diabetes had both negative psychosocial and positive (adaptive) ways of coping with diabetes.
Negative themes included:  1) Anxiety/fear, worry about hypoglycemia and complications of diabetes, depression and negative moods/hopelessness and 2) Discrimination at work and public misunderstanding about diabetes.
Two psychosocial themes demonstrated adaptive ways of coping with diabetes: 1) Having a positive outlook and sense of resilience in the midst of having diabetes and 2) Receiving psychosocial support through caring and compassionate family, friends, healthcare professionals and other people with diabetes.

Most diabetes social sciences research focuses on only the negative aspects of having diabetes.  Although this paper discussed negative aspects, it also focused on the adaptive, or positive, ways in which people with diabetes viewed their disease.  “We found that although these negative experiences with diabetes exist, people also held on to the positive aspects.  Some said diabetes made their lives a little richer because they ate healthier foods, or they were able to connect with their family more to overcome challenges. It gave them a better appreciation of what they have.  The discrimination at work and from society was a finding that was unexpected, but was evident throughout both the quantitative and qualitative data.

MedicalResearch: What should patients and clinicians take away from the report?

Dr. Stuckey: Clinicians and patients can take away the importance of letting the provider know what the patient needs.  Our advice is to ask them outright, “Is there anything I can do for you about your diabetes care today, or until the next time I see you?”  People with diabetes should have the courage to tell the health care provider what he/she needs to improve their diabetes care, including non-medical support.  Family and friends can also educate themselves about the disease by visiting the websites of the American Diabetes Association and the International Diabetes Federation, and by attending doctors’ visits.

 MedicalResearch: What future research do you recommend as a result of this study?

Dr. Stuckey: Recommendations for future research are to investigate discrimination in diabetes specifically. In a subsequent paper we hope to merge qualitative and quantitative DAWN2 data on this topic with an analysis of the policies of the different countries. Other research could include an expansion of the ‘turning points’ data or exploration of the factors that promote positive attitudes and resilience in people with diabetes.

Personal Accounts of the Negative and Adaptive Psychosocial Experiences of People With Diabetes in the Second Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs (DAWN2) Study
Stuckey HL1, Mullan-Jensen CB2, Reach G3, Kovacs Burns K4, Piana N5, Vallis M6, Wens J7, Willaing I8, Skovlund SE2, Peyrot M9.
Diabetes Care. 2014 Sep;37(9):2466-74. doi: 10.2337/dc13-2536. Epub 2014 Jun 27.