Diabet. Med. 29, 251–256 (2012)
Aims To test whether patients with Type 1 diabetes would join support groups and benefit by improving psychosocial functioning, regardless of their HbA1c levels.
Methods A pre-post test with follow-up after 6 and 12 months was conducted as a concurrent mixed-method study. The convenience sample included patients with Type 1 diabetes aged ≥ 21 years, having been diagnosed ≥ 1 year earlier. Primary outcome was diabetes-related distress (using the Problem Areas in Diabetes scale). Secondary outcomes were psychological distress and depressive symptoms (Symptom Check List -90-R/Global Severity Index and depression subscale), well-being (World Health Organization 5) and HbA1c.
Results Equal numbers of patients with HbA1c above and below 64 mmol/mol (8%) joined the support groups (n = 54). Focus group interviews revealed that major benefits were feeling less alone and being intuitively understood among peers. The patients perceived the support groups as a safe environment for sharing experiences. Problem Areas in Diabetes, Global Severity Index and depression subscale scores were significantly reduced post-intervention and maintained at 1-year follow-up. Well-being increased insignificantly. HbA1c was unchanged.
Conclusions Support groups are able to reduce diabetes-related and psychological distress 1 year after the intervention for patients with both good and poor glycaemic control displaying high levels of distress. Although patients with severely high levels of diabetes-related distress might need more extensive therapeutic interventions to further reduce their level of distress. Further, interventions that target specific self-management problems are needed for patients with poor glycaemic control to help them accomplish lower levels of HbA1c. Moreover, healthcare providers must be aware that patients with good glycaemic control might have an unacknowledged psychosocial burden of living with the illness.