Adults with diabetes have a preferred agenda for diabetes consultations, and ‘mood’ is high on the list

In a recent ACBRD publication, we reported that adults with diabetes who feel distressed about diabetes, are seeking support from their health professionals

By Dr Christel Hendrieckx

It is common for people with diabetes to experience emotional problems, such as diabetes distress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. As the physical and emotional aspects of diabetes are linked, holistic (or whole person) care is important. But to what extent do people with diabetes want to talk with their diabetes health professionals about their feelings? And are the people who want to talk, the people who need to talk about emotional aspects?

In this study, we asked almost 700 adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, attending routine consultations at four Melbourne diabetes clinics, to complete a survey in the waiting room. They were asked to indicate their preferred agenda from a list of 7 topics.  Questions also related to their preferences about talking with their health professionals about their emotional well-being and feelings about living with diabetes.

Around one in four adults with type 1 diabetes and one in two with type 2 diabetes wanted to talk about their feelings and experiences of living with this condition. The topic ‘how diabetes affects my mood’ was selected most frequently; highest ranking by one in three participants. We also showed that those with elevated diabetes distress and lower emotional well-being were more willing to talk about their feelings. This indicates that they were in greater need of receiving emotional support from their diabetes health professional(s). This may explain why adults with type 2 diabetes expressed a higher need to talk, as they also were more likely to have severe diabetes distress than those with type 1 diabetes (25% vs 17%).

Our findings emphasise, once again, the importance of routinely assessing diabetes distress in diabetes care. It enables health professionals to provide timely support to those most in need. Also, asking what people would like to talk about gives them an opportunity to share the topics most relevant to them. 

If you are a health professional supporting people with diabetes, the NDSS* Diabetes and Emotional Health Handbook offers strategies on how to ask about, assess and address emotional well-being in clinical practice.

If you are a person with diabetes, there are a range of NDSS* factsheets about emotional health issues, which includes tips for recognising and addressing them, and where to find further support and resources.

Reference: Hendrieckx C, Halliday JA, Russell-Green S, Cohen N, Colman PG, Jenkins A, O’Neal D, Speight J. Adults with diabetes distress often want to talk with their health professionals about it. Findings from an audit of four Australian specialist diabetes clinics. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. 2020, 44(6):473-480. *The National Diabetes Services Scheme is an initiative of the Australian Government administered with the assistance of Diabetes Australia