In the Journals

‘Mindful self-compassion’ reduces depression, diabetes distress

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June 27, 2016

Adults with diabetes who participated in weekly sessions that included meditation and self-compassion practices reported fewer depressive symptoms and less diabetes-related distress vs. those who did not attend the sessions, according to findings from a randomized controlled trial.

Anna M. Friis, of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and colleagues analyzed data from 63 adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes recruited between July and September 2014 at three hospital sites in Auckland. Participants were randomly assigned to a mindful self-compassion program (n = 32) or a wait-list control condition (n = 31), each for 8 weeks. Sessions were delivered to groups of eight to 12 people, with each session lasting 2.5 hours. Central components of the program were formal meditation along with formal and informal self-compassion practices aimed at developing cognitive, behavioral and physical capacities to comfort oneself when distressed.

Researchers assessed measures of self-compassion, depressive symptoms, diabetes-specific distress and HbA1c at baseline (pre-intervention) and at week 8, and again at 3 months’ follow-up. Depression was assessed via the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire; diabetes distress was assessed via the 17-item Diabetes Distress Scale. Participants received $20 vouchers for each session they attended to cover time and transportation costs. Treatment groups ran from August until October 2014.

Repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) using intention to treat showed that adults assigned to mindful self-compassion experienced reductions in depression and diabetes distress, with results maintained at 3 months. Those assigned to intervention also saw a mean 1% decrease in HbA1c vs. controls.

“The current finding that the [mindful self-compassion] training resulted in reduced HbA1c is among a very small number of psychosocial [randomized controlled trials] to record this critical result,” the researchers wrote. “Although the interaction between mental health and metabolic outcomes among patients with diabetes is complex and the impact of depression reduction to improve glycemic control still controversial, these results are consistent with preliminary evidence from studies suggesting that psychological factors buffer biological systems from the negative effects of diabetes distress.”

The researchers also noted that the finding that mindful self-compassion reduced depression adds to the overall evidence for psychosocial interventions among patients with diabetes and is consistent with several mindfulness-based randomized controlled trials. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes and the New Zealand Diabetes Foundation supported this study. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.