Presentation on why type 1 diabetes and work life is worth researching

On Wednesday 21st of June, Ulla presented her ongoing PhD research at an ACBRD lunch symposium. The title of her talk was ‘Work it! Work it! Why type 1 diabetes and work life is worth researching and how to enable a happy marriage between diabetes and work life’. Here she summarises her talk:

by Ulla Møller Hansen, a Danish PhD student from Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen

Managing type 1 diabetes 24/7 is hard work. At the same time, work is as important as ever, as a locus of meaning, identity and social relations. This puzzled me initially; how do working people with a demanding chronic condition such as type 1 diabetes work out work life? My PhD program of research is therefore designed to contribute with an understanding of the interplay between type 1 diabetes and work life from the perspective of people with diabetes as a basis for intervention development.

Based on 40 explorative interviews with people with type 1 diabetes, I found that people with type 1 diabetes stretch their available resources to appear as ‘good workers’ while sustaining themselves as ‘good patients’. Managing this tension between logic of work and logic of diabetes can be stressful, and I suggest that work-related diabetes distress may be a way to capture this potential additional psychosocial burden of diabetes. Work-related diabetes distress is related with diabetes distress, a common emotional response among people with type 1 diabetes, but I hypothesise that it taps into distress specific to reconciling diabetes and work life. To test this hypothesis I am currently analysing data from a large survey among 1,594 Danish adults with type 1 diabetes. Work-related diabetes distress in working people with type 1 diabetes calls for interventions tailored to the specific challenges of work life e.g. disclosure, instrumental and emotional support at work, anti-discrimination policies, clinical consultations focusing on work life.

At the symposium an engaged crowd of participants listened to my presentation and discussed the resonance of the findings within their own work setting as advocates, clinicians and researchers. I ended my presentation with a call for action to work united to mitigate the potential psychosocial burden of diabetes in work life. Work it!

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