How to Reduce the Social Impact of Diabetes and Boost Quality of Life

Braden G. Barnett, MD

2021 Dec 30

9 min read

Living with a long-term illness like diabetes can impact your quality of life and others’ lives too. Your physical, mental, and social well-being plays an important role in how well you manage blood glucose levels and how highly you place your diabetes care. The relationships you have with others can also influence your choices, increasing or decreasing the risk factors associated with this disease. The social impact of diabetes goes beyond yourself to affect families, friends and even our communities.

Diabetes can also affect your mental health, coloring the way you see yourself and the world around you. The demands of managing diabetes can affect your relationships as well as increase your risk of depression and social anxiety. However, with a little planning and some healthy choices, the social impact of diabetes can be reduced so you feel in control of your health outcomes and can improve your quality of life.

Take control to reduce the social impacts of diabetes

Although it can seem that your social life revolves around food and drink, it doesn’t have to. There are plenty of activities you can do with friends and family that don’t include eating and drinking. Try suggesting activities that you can enjoy with friends and make it easier to manage diabetes. We’ve made some suggestions below to get you started.

Exercise together

Bike rides, walks along nature trails, even taking a jog is more fun when you have a friend along. Regular exercise helps with managing diabetes and protects from cardiovascular disease. Aerobic exercise can lower blood sugar levels and help with diabetes by increasing blood flow and insulin sensitivity. The social impact of diabetes is lessened when you spend quality time with friends.

Meet for breakfast

Not all food-related activities need to be banned from your social life. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and this couldn’t be more true for diabetics! Choosing to eat earlier can help you with your diabetes care as well opting for nutritious food for your first meal of the day. There are plenty of delicious breakfast options that are healthy choices too – whether meeting at yours or that funky cafe everyone has been talking about. 

Relax

Mindfulness is a great way to manage the ups and downs of living with diabetes. Healthcare research shows it can reduce risk factors for depression, anxiety, and stress. Mindfulness retreats and meditation courses are another way to take care of your mental health while spending time with friends. Learning different mindfulness techniques can help you stay balanced, sleep better and manage the ups and downs of diabetic life with more ease, lessening the social impact of diabetes on your life.

Be prepared

Keeping a spare diabetes kit ready to go can bring some spontaneity back to your social life. Being in control and having what you need to see the day through with balanced blood sugar – no matter what you choose to do – will help you avoid diabetes complications and reduce the social impacts of diabetes.

The mental health impact of diabetes

The structure needed for keeping on top of high blood sugars can take a toll on diabetic patients’ mental health. While the constant monitoring and adherence to a healthy diet and lifestyle ultimately support better mental and emotional health, the initial diagnosis is often a shock. The social impact of diabetes can ripple through all aspects of your life and eventually lead to other complications.

For some, diabetes-related stress can emerge weeks, months, or even years after being diagnosed with this disease. Dealing with chronic disease is one of the risk factors for developing depression and anxiety. The road to improved health and diabetes management can be a rocky one.

It’s important not to be too hard on yourself when learning to manage diabetes. Start off by focusing on the things you can control. Lean on community health centers or your health care team as you learn to navigate challenges. Take small steps towards managing the change that diabetes care brings to your life. We’ve noted some key steps for managing diabetes along with your mental health below.

Improve your health literacy

Understanding diabetes is a huge part of learning how to manage it and live comfortably with it. Arm yourself with knowledge about diabetes and don’t be afraid to ask your health care team LOTS of questions. The internet, diabetes forums, and health care workers are all great sources for your diabetes healthcare research. Being proactive will help you to remain positive about your diabetes.

Take control of your diabetes

Diabetics who feel in control of their condition have fewer hypos and less depression and anxiety over their health disparities. Take time to get to the reasons behind fluctuating glycemic levels so you can better avoid the emotional and energetic rollercoaster that accompanies erratic high blood sugar and crashing lows.

Eat well

Learning which are healthy and unhealthy foods not only helps to even out high blood sugar but can also improve your mood. Diabetics can find their diabetes status can put them at higher risk of other conditions too, such as reduced immune system function. Part of choosing a healthy life means choosing nutritious food that boosts your mood, keeps blood sugar stable, and supports your immune system function too.

Seek the support of others

The support of someone who has walked in your shoes and knows exactly what you’re going through can be invaluable. Relationships with other diabetics can reduce your diabetes distress, support you to build healthy lives, and give you the encouragement you need when things get tough. The social impact of diabetes is instantly lessened when you have more friends in the same boat as you!

The diabetes impact on society

Diabetes doesn’t just impact individuals, there is a wider impact on society too. More than 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes. It’s a number that is growing along with the social and economic impact, which was calculated to be $327 billion in 2017. The economic costs include both direct medical costs and a reduction in productivity caused by this chronic disease.

The additional medical costs that need to be covered by people with diabetes can become burdensome for families and diabetes patients. Health insurance coverage doesn’t always cover newly diagnosed diabetes. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention states diabetes is the most expensive chronic disease for Americans, costing $237 billion each year in medical costs alone. A further $90 billion is lost in reduced productivity.

Diabetes mellitus of all types is a serious condition and public health issue in both western cultures and lower-income societies. Diabetes self management interventions can go some way toward reducing the social impact diabetes has on communities, however prevention is always a better option.

The World Health Organization view on diabetes

According to the world health organization commission, diabetes prevalence is higher in low and middle-income nations. This pattern remains true for western societies too – lower socioeconomic status has been associated with a higher prevalence of diabetes.

To support the prevention and disease control in low to middle income countries, the World Health Organization are building awareness of the social impact of diabetes and encouraging preventive services by marking World Diabetes Day each November 14th. This and other work aims to reduce the 1.5 million deaths directly caused by diabetes each year and improve health outcomes for diabetics.

But the social impact of diabetes goes well beyond dollars and cents. Poor health outcomes caused by the mismanagement of diabetes adversely affect the quality of life for diabetes patients, their families and put pressure on community health systems too.

Adverse outcomes such as eye, nerve, and kidney diseases are very real risks for people who neglect to control their blood glucose levels. The risk of cardiovascular disease is also heightened for diabetics. Early diagnosis and proactive management of the condition are key to reducing diabetes’ impact on society. Friends and family can help reduce the risk of diabetic complications and the social impact of diabetes if they understand the disease better.

Enlisting friends and family in your diabetes care

Just as there’s a social impact of diabetes, relationships can help or hinder medication adherence and how well you manage your condition. Friends and family are the biggest influencers of our health. From choosing nutritional food to how often we exercise, our immediate circle of support can push us towards a healthy life or put us at higher risk of poor health outcomes.

Enlisting the support of friends and family for diabetic patients has been shown to improve health outcomes substantially. When it comes to the social impact of diabetes, discussing the changes you need to make to maintain a good level of diabetes care is a great place to start. Family life is easier when we share or concerns and friends are sure to want to help reduce health disparities between you.

Being open about fears of diabetic complications like cardiovascular disease, liver diseases, or kidney failure, will impress the importance of support and health care utilization on friends and family. Explaining the cost of  managing this condition can lead to assistance in looking for the right health insurance coverage or managing finances.

The social impact of diabetes has repercussions for individuals, their relationships with family and friends and even the communities they are part of. Diabetes prevalence is growing and mismanagement of the disease leads to increased risk to individuals and increased cost to society. Tools like Klinio can  improve health outcomes for diabetics, and reduce health disparities between their loved ones and their communities.

Written by

Braden G. Barnett, MD

Dr. Braden G. Barnett is an endocrinologist in Los Angeles, California and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Keck Medical Center of USC and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. He received his medical degree from University of Southern California and has been in practice around 8 years. A skilled professional, Dr. Barnett holds certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine with a special focus on endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism. He is also a recipient of several awards and honors.

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