Researchers bid to tackle stigma following study of adolescents with type 1 diabetes

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 12 Jun 2018
Researchers bid to tackle stigma following study of adolescents with type 1 diabetes
Teenagers and young adults with type 1 diabetes commonly feel stigmatised which affects how they control their condition.

A Canadian study found that two-thirds of participants experienced stigma, which was more predominant among females compared to males.

Whilst the findings showed that experiencing stigma was linked to difficulty in controlling blood sugar, it suggests that working towards breaking down stigma may help towards improving diabetes control.

"Despite the fact that type 1 diabetes is not the fault of the person affected by it - is not related to any behaviour patterns or choices - young people diagnosed with it experience a distressing level of stigma," said Dr. Jan Hux, president of Diabetes Canada, who wasn't involved in the study.

This week is Diabetes Week, and the theme of 'Talk About Diabetes' highlights the importance of communication, which helps towards breaking down misconceptions about diabetes and reducing needless stigma.

The researchers from McGill University Health Centre analysed 380 adolescents aged 14-24 to see how they manage to live with type 1 diabetes among their peers.

Those who felt stigma - classified three-fold as avoidance of diabetes management with friends present, difficulty telling others about their diagnosis and embarrassment around others - were twice as likely to have poor glycemic control.

"There is a high prevalence of stigma in youth with type 1 diabetes that is associated with both elevated HbA1c levels and severe hypoglycemia," said the researchers.

They added that "targeted strategies to address stigma are needed", with Dr Hux noting: "Research and programs that raise public awareness and support around type 1 diabetes and foster resiliency in those affected by it are urgently needed."

Benedict Jephcote, Editor of Diabetes.co.uk, said: "Stigma is based on perception and two people with diabetes can have very different outlooks on stigma depending on both their environment and their outlook.

"We are working to reduce stigma within the public's perception of diabetes and to empower people to feel more comfortable in accepting and being open about their diabetes. Both of these approaches have the power to make a big difference. Type 1 diabetes is a challenge and those of us with the condition have a lot to be proud of in managing it each day."

The findings appear online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
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