Age, life experience important factors in managing Type-2 diabetes related stress
Diet and medicines are no doubt requisites for managing any form of diabetes, but an individual's age and experience has been found to play a crucial role in how they deal with the related stress.
Sharing evidence of the same, researchers in a new study have found that age plays a critical role in the well-being of people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Younger patients are more susceptible to psychological distress resulting in worse health outcomes, said the study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
"We found we can evaluate a patient's initial stress and predict how they will be doing six months later," said senior author Vicki Helgeson, professor of psychology at CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
"If you can identify people who are facing diabetes distress earlier, you can intervene and prevent their health from declining," added Helgeson.
Past research has shown that stress associated with diabetes management leads to poor blood sugar control.
In the study, the team evaluated 207 patients (55 per cent male, 53 per cent white, 47 per cent black, 25-82 years of age), who were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the past two years.
They used several surveys to evaluate health, psychological distress and health care, as well as studied the participants' daily dairies to identify stressors.
Researchers assessed patients at the start of the study to establish a baseline and then six months later.
They examined the results with regard to gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, employment, income, relationship status and use of medication.
Researchers found younger patients (42 years and younger) experienced higher diabetes-related and psychological distress. In addition, patients with higher education and income expressed more stress.
Conversely, older patients (older than 64 years) had less psychological stress and greater consistency in self-care, blood sugar control and medication adherence. Patients in long-term relationships also reported less diabetes stress.
"This is a diverse sample with respect to age, education and race, which makes the result even more provocative," Helgeson said.
Patients identified diet as the greatest stressor (38 per cent). Other significant stressors include checking blood sugar (8 per cent) and experiencing high or low blood sugar events (7 per cent).
Patients who self-reported greater stress also reported greater depressed mood, less adherence to medication and higher anxiety.
"Diabetes care is difficult because it requires a lifestyle change that you have to do forever. Life gets in the way of sticking to a diabetes regimen," Helgeson explained.
As a possible answer to this, the researcher believes older adults may live in the present compared to younger adults, whose focus on the future may magnify their stressors.
Diabetes is also more common as people age, and older patients may find more support from their peer group. She also suggests older adults may leverage past experiences to employ emotion regulation strategies to mitigate the stress associated with managing the disease.