Widespread community misunderstandings and stigma surrounding diabetes result in high rates of mental health problems among people living with diabetes, experts warned today.
Although nearly two million Australians live with diabetes, it is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized health conditions in the country.
Up to 80% of people with diabetes say they feel responsible or ashamed for living with the disease, and more than 25% say that other people’s attitudes and stereotypes about diabetes have a negative impact on their mental health impact.
Almost 50% of people with diabetes have had a mental health problem related to diabetes in the past twelve months.
A new survey commissioned by Diabetes Australia has uncovered significant misunderstandings in the community regarding diabetes:
- Up to 85% of the people in the community believe that people with diabetes should not eat sugary foods or drinks
- Only 43% of people understand that not all people with diabetes are overweight.
Experts believe that popular misconceptions about diabetes lead to a widespread misconception that diabetes is simply a lifestyle caused by obesity. In reality there are many different types of diabetes. It is a complex set of medical conditions with many different risk factors, including genetics and family history, age, physical inactivity, other medical conditions and medications used, and other factors that affect a person’s risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes Australia has launched a new, powerful advertising campaign as part of National Diabetes Week (July 11-17) to call for an end to diabetes guilt and shame.
Professor Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia, said people with diabetes are routinely stigmatized about aspects of their lifestyle and diabetes.
“Diabetes has an image problem and a stigma problem. Approximately 80% of people with diabetes say they have been blamed or ashamed of having the disease, ”said Professor Johnson.
“Some common examples are that people with diabetes are blamed for their diabetes or its complications and are judged when they consume certain foods.
“Over 450,000 Australians with diabetes use insulin every day to stay healthy, but many are shamed for using insulin or checking their blood sugar levels in public.
“This year we ask the community to ask themselves, ‘Would you mind’ if you are accused, shamed, or convicted of having a serious health condition that anyone could develop?
“Nobody chooses diabetes – no matter what type of diabetes they have. Diabetes is a complex spectrum of diseases of many different types and stages, and while diet and obesity are contributing factors for many people with type 2 diabetes, there are many other contributing risk factors for diabetes that need to be understood. “
“Nobody should be blamed or ashamed of having diabetes.”
Professor Jane Speight, director of the Foundation for the Australian Center for Behavioral Research in Diabetes, said the diabetes stigma has a huge impact on how people deal with their condition.
“Diabetes is no joke, and stigma is more than just hurtful words and deeds. It can have a significant impact on a person’s physical, mental and social wellbeing, ”said Professor Speight.
“It can cause people to delay or skip medication, which can increase their risk of serious diabetes-related complications. It also affects their willingness to seek help and support from others, including health professionals. “
Our research has shown:
- 52% of people with type 2 diabetes say they are overweight or have had a history of them
- 37% of people with type 2 diabetes say that people judge them based on their food choices
- 26% of people with type 2 diabetes were told they brought it themselves
- 67% of people with type 1 diabetes say they are judged when they consume foods or drinks that contain sugar
- 55% say some people believe they have type 1 diabetes to blame
- 31% don’t tell other people that they have type 1 diabetes to avoid negative reactions
Diabetes Australia launched two new TV spots to raise awareness of the problem. You can see it here and here. The campaign will be broadcast on digital channels, on television and on social media.