Public Health and Primary CareOriginal Article

High Prevalence of Diabetes Distress in a University Population

Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD; Rochelle G. Rennie, DO; Emily H. Guseman, PhD; Alicia Rodgers, MS; and Amber M. Healy, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: February 15, 2019

Accepted: April 3, 2019

Published: September 1, 2019

J Osteopath Med; 119(9): 556-568

Context: Diabetes distress is an affective condition that addresses an individual’s frustrations, worries, and concerns about living with diabetes. It is associated with fewer self-care behaviors, suboptimal glycemic control, and lower quality of life (QOL). For these reasons, diabetes care guidelines recommend routine assessment of diabetes distress.

Objectives: To assess diabetes distress in a university population.

Methods: This study was conducted using a descriptive, cross-sectional design. Researchers assessed diabetes distress and other psychosocial factors via an electronic anonymous survey among students, faculty, and staff at a large university in the Midwest.

Results: A total of 173 participants completed the survey (mean [SD] age, 35.1 [16.7] years), with 108 [62.4%] female and 142 [82.1%] white participants). Eighty-five participants had type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM), and 88 had type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Of the 85 T1DM participants, 23 (27.4%) reported high diabetes distress, and 27 (30.7%) T2DM participants reported high diabetes distress. Sixteen T1DM (18.8%) and 15 T2DM (17.0%) participants screened positive for severe depression. Severe depression was associated with high distress for both T1DM and T2DM participants (T1DM: χ2=28.845, P<.001; T2DM: χ2=20.679, P<.001). Participants with T1DM reported more frequent self-care behaviors (mean [SD], 62.3 [17.1] vs 52.2 [19.2]; P<.001), but lower diabetes QOL (63.3 [14.1] vs 68.5 [15.5]; P=.021) compared with T2DM participants. No differences were observed in depressive symptoms, diabetes self-efficacy, and coping styles. Linear regression models showed that high diabetes distress scores (standardized β=.323, P=.025; standardized β=.604, P<.001) were independently associated with higher hemoglobin A1C levels and lower diabetes QOL after controlling for depressive symptoms, age, and gender in T1DM participants. Similarly, high diabetes distress scores (standardized β=.434, P<.001) were associated with lower diabetes QOL in T2DM participants after controlling for the same variables.

Conclusions: High diabetes distress levels were associated with lower diabetes QOL for both T1DM and T2DM participants. These findings suggest that attending or working at a university may be associated with high diabetes distress scores and lower diabetes QOL. Additional research with a larger, more diverse sample from multiple universities is needed to confirm these findings.

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