March 12, 2013
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Type 1 diabetes affects relationships for patients, their partners

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Research is needed to better understand how patients with type 1 diabetes cope with emotional and interpersonal challenges and how psychosocial stressors and coping affect adherence, quality of life and glycemic control.

According to a qualitative focus group study, anxiety and fear weigh significantly on the minds of patients and their partners, consequently affecting their relationship.

Researchers from The State University of New York and Brigham Young University conducted four focus groups: two with adults with type 1 diabetes (n=16) and two with partners of patients with type 1 diabetes (n=14). Both groups were asked two questions: “What are the emotional and interpersonal challenges you have experienced because you have (your partner has) type 1 diabetes?” and “How does the fact that you have (your partner has) type 1 diabetes affect your relationship with your partner, positively and/or negatively?” All sessions were recorded and transcribed then analyzed by four researchers.

They used constant comparative methods to identify four core domains:

  • Impact of diabetes on the relationship, including level of partner involvement, emotional impact of diabetes on the relationship and concerns about child-rearing.
  • Understanding the impact of hypoglycemia.
  • Stress of potential complications.
  • Benefits of technology.

Partner involvement varied from very little to significant; however, the researchers identified significant anxiety about hypoglycemia and future complications. Additionally, relationship stress may be increased by sources of conflict. The researchers also determined that partner support was greatly valued and technology had a positive influence.

Based on these results, adults with type 1 diabetes should receive more attention from researchers to better understand their emotions, coping mechanisms and psychosocial outcomes and the relationship these factors have on adherence and glycemic control.

“Also, their partners, and the effect that living with type 1 diabetes has on them and their relationships, should be assessed. Future interventions might be developed that engage the partner and evaluated to see if, and in what ways, this is beneficial. Our goal is to develop and test interventions that will help patients and partners cope with these challenges effectively and succeed in their self-management.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.