West Mids diabetic ‘secrets’

Nearly one in three people with diabetes in the West Midlands could be risking their health and experiencing emotional distress by keeping their diabetes a secret according to a survey by leading health charity Diabetes UK.

The survey, conducted for Diabetes Week (12 – 18 June 2011), found that nearly one in three people with diabetes (29 per cent) in the West Midlands had, or were still, keeping their diabetes a secret. Worryingly, over half of these people (52 per cent) felt that not talking about their diabetes had impacted on how they manage their condition and almost half (46 per cent) felt this had affected their physical or emotional health.

Over a third (35 per cent) of people had kept their condition a secret for fear of discrimination or bullying. These people were most likely to keep their diabetes a secret at work (64 per cent) however 59 per cent had also kept their diabetes a secret from their friends. Reasons for doing so included not wanting diabetes to affect employment chances or people assuming the condition developed as a result of an unhealthy diet.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “We have to ask why so many people with diabetes keep it a secret. Learning to live with and managing diabetes is challenging enough without the physical and psychological impact of such a burden. It is hugely concerning that the health and well-being of so many people could be at risk as a result of discrimination or prejudice.”

Many survey respondents commented that they missed insulin injections or delayed testing their blood glucose to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Badly managed blood glucose levels can increase the risk of long term complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation, and short term complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)2 and hypoglycaemia3 (hypo). Both DKA and hypos can result in hospitalisation or can even be fatal if not treated immediately.

Barbara Young continued: “There are over 270,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in the West Midlands who need friends, family, employers and the public to understand how common diabetes is becoming and how serious it can be if people aren’t supported to manage their condition.

“We believe all people should receive enough support to help them manage their diabetes and that services such as our Diabetes UK Careline are so vital. Simply knowing you have someone to talk to when you need it most can make all the difference to help people better manage their diabetes and reduce their risk of developing devastating complications.”

Diabetes UK is raising awareness of the importance of talking about diabetes during Diabetes Week and is aiming to raise £200,000 throughout the week to expand its Careline – a vital service providing information and emotional support to anyone experiencing emotional distress, anxiety, depression and other difficulties related to diabetes. This will provide more support by reducing the cost of a call to Careline, extending its opening hours, introducing in-depth counselling services and employing more staff to answer queries.

For more information about Diabetes Week and how you can get involved, please call 020 7424 1000, visit diabetes.org.uk/diabetesweek, or email DiabetesWeek@diabetes.org.uk