New research from Diabetes UK has found that seven out of ten people feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes, which significantly affects their mental and physical health.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults with Type 1, Type 2 and other types of diabetes from across the UK shows that the majority (three quarters) of those who feel overwhelmed say that this affects how well they can manage the condition.
In order to explore the links between mental health and diabetes, the charity collected extensive insights from people affected by the condition and healthcare professionals from across the UK. The findings, published in the report Too often missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care, show that diabetes is much more than a physical condition.
Management of physical symptoms 24/7 – for instance by checking blood glucose levels, or managing diet – alongside the continual need to make decisions, and take actions, in order to reduce the likelihood of short and long-term complications, can affect every aspect of day-to-day life.
The research revealed that the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional, mental and psychological wellbeing and health − from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety.
Three quarters of those needing specialist mental health support, such as from a counsellor or psychologist, to help manage the condition, could not access it. Seven out of ten people with diabetes also reported that they are not helped to talk about their emotional wellbeing by their diabetes teams.
Healthcare professionals surveyed also revealed that there was more to be done in this area. Specifically, 40% of GPs say they are not likely to ask about emotional wellbeing and mental health in routine diabetes appointments, while only 30% feel there is enough emotional and psychological support for people living with diabetes when needed.
The report marks the launch in Parliament of a Diabetes UK campaign to make the emotional and psychological demands of living with diabetes recognised and provide the right support to everyone who needs it.
The charity is urgently calling on each of the four nations’ health services to create national standards for diabetes emotional and mental health services. These should ensure that everyone is asked how they are feeling as part of every diabetes appointment, and that a mental health professional with knowledge of diabetes is part of every diabetes care team.
Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “The day-to-day demands of managing diabetes can be a constant struggle affecting people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. In turn, people tell us that struggling emotionally can make it even more difficult to keep on top of self-management. And when diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications, such as amputations, kidney failure and stroke increases.
“Diabetes services that include emotional and psychological support can help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save money.
“Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, but services for people with diabetes don’t always reflect this. We need to bridge the divide between physical and mental health services to ensure those with emotional and psychological difficulties related to their condition do not have their needs overlooked. It is critical that all diabetes care sees and supports the whole person, and explores what matters most to them.”
Diabetes UK is launching a petition to call for national standards for diabetes mental health support and services. To find out more about the campaign and sign the petition go to www.diabetes.org.uk/missing.