Hypoglycemia a Major Stressor on Type 1 Relationships

A focus group study of Type 1s and their partners finds that the spectre of hypoglycemia looms large in relationships.



Researchers agree that partner support is vital to help people with diabetes manage their condition. But while there have been extensive studies tracking the psychological impact of Type 2 diabetes on a relationship, there has been less focus on the imprint Type 1 diabetes leaves on relationships.

Dr. Paula M. Trief at the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse recently held a focus group of adult Type 1s and partners of Type 1s; the results were published in the journal Diabetes Care. When talking to the couples, Dr. Trief found that the spectre of hypoglycemia looms large, even in households where it doesn’t occur frequently. Patients and partners described “significant worry, stress, and anxiety about hypoglycemia and frustration in trying to prevent or manage it, eg, the need to carry snacks, to remind and check during lows, and prearrange for emergencies,” according to the study. Hypoglycemia beat out worry over future complications as the top Type 1 stressor in the relationships.

In a published report, Dr. Trief said she believed the individual stresses of managing Type 1 diabetes, as well as the fear of what may be down the road, can have a cumulative impact on a relationship. However, she cautioned that the focus group findings shouldn’t be given the same weight as a quantitative study. Instead, she hopes the conversation will lead the way for more formal study. A leader in the field of Type 1 psychology, Dr. Trief is pursuing such a study using information compiled in the T1D Exchange, a recently-created national database of 26,000 T1 patients.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.