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Living with the stigma of diabetes

Published: 2018-06-12
 
Montreal – Michael Wright was your average high school student, juggling the responsibilities of school and friends while taking the first steps towards finding his first real job. Being diagnosed, suddenly, with type 1 diabetes was a shock. Suddenly, Michael found himself struggling with the sudden requirements that accompany treatment, from the intense monitoring of dietary habits to administering insulin – either through injections or via a cell phone-sized pump attached to the body. And, in addition to the daily struggle of staying on top of his new diagnosis, he felt stigmatized.

A team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) reports that teen and young adult (aged 14-24 years) type 1 diabetes sufferers often experience stigma, which leads them to neglect treatment and tread dangerously close to suffering medical emergencies. Michael was one of two patient partners engaged to participate in a study that is the first of its to estimate the stigma prevalence in this age group related to type 1 diabetes, which can lead to elevated HbA1c levels and severe hypoglycemia. Their findings are published in The Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“A lot of things that tend to be automatic in our bodies suddenly have to be managed, which is super stressful. Then you superimpose on this the fact that you are a young person worrying about your career, your romantic life, education, autonomy from your parents – all this stuff happening and then you get hit with this and it ticks you off,” says study senior author Dr. Kaberi Dasgupta, who is a clinician-scientist in the Metabolic Disorders and Complications Program at the RI-MUHC and internal medicine specialist at the MUHC. “They are always kind of dancing with death – constantly treading that fine line.

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