Addressing Disparities in Diabetes Distress

When researchers asked people with type 1 diabetes how they felt about having the disease, they most commonly answered: “No one has ever asked me that question.”

Why is the question so important? 

“Diabetes distress is ... quite common among adults with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” Danielle Hessler Jones, PhD, professor of family and community medicine at UCSF. “It’s distinct from depression. It’s associated with glycemic and disease management, including HbA1c, missed medications, missed appointments and self-management behaviors. Unfortunately, it is also chronic, and so our evidence points to it not simply disappearing on its own. It doesn’t just go away. But the good news is it’s also something that really is responsive to a range of interventions.”

Dr. Hessler Jones is the principal investigator of the EMBARK study, a randomized controlled trial that compared three diabetes distress interventions: Streamline, which was a diabetes educator-led program focused on education and management; TunedIn, which was a psychologist-led program focusing exclusively on the emotional side of diabetes; and FixIt, which integrated elements from the Streamline and TunedIn programs.

Researchers found that all three interventions reduced their level of diabetes distress, but an intervention that integrated an educational and emotional approach resulted in the greatest distress reductions.

“These findings suggest individuals with diabetes can benefit from the reductions in distress when interventions include a direct focus on the emotional side of diabetes,” said Hessler Jones.

Read more about the EMBARK study in this Healio article