So-called gratitude journaling where people write down positive aspects of their life in a diary could help young people with type 1 diabetes lower their HbA1c.

That is according to a New Zealand study where researchers from the University of Auckland compared HbA1c levels and psychological factors in 60 adolescents with type 1 diabetes.

The average age of the participants was 12.2 years and 53.3% of them were girls. They were split into two groups and tracked over three months.

One group participated in gratitude journaling, where they were supposed to write down three positive aspects of their life every day. The other group received their normal care and didn’t journal.

Questionnaires were also completed at the start of the study, eight weeks later and then again at 12 weeks where quality of life, self-care and gratitude together with stress and depression were recorded.

The gratitude journaling was intended to be a daily activity, but this was only achieved in 45% of participants. However, 26% of the group made entries multiple times a week and 29% made weekly entries.

Both groups started with an average HbA1c of 68 mmol/mol (8.4%). The results found that after 12 weeks the journaling group had average HbA1c levels of 67 mmol/mol (8.3%), while those in the standard care group were 74 mmol/mol (8.9%). Those who had more journal entries had a lower HbA1c.

Lead author Dr Anna Serlachius and colleagues said: “Changes in HbA1c due to a psychological intervention alone are difficult to achieve and so this pilot study provides a basis for future research into this area. Developing psychosocial interventions that are feasible and appeal to this population remains an important goal for future research.”

Despite the positive results shown by the journaling group, the recording of positive aspects did not improve psychological factors.

The researchers added: “Unexpectedly we did not see any changes in the psychological or behavioural measures, including self-care behaviours or gratitude, which makes it difficult to ascertain that the between-group differences in HbA1c were due to the gratitude intervention.”

The study was published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

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