Stress, coping and biology intertwine for diabetes control

New research finds that in non-insulin dependent (Type 2) diabetes the body's own insulin secretion may automatically compensate, at least partially, for short-term fluctuations in blood sugar whether triggered by psychological or behavioral events. In contrast, blood sugar control in insulin dependent (Type 1) diabetes is more subject to such fluctuations since the body cannot compensate automatically.

Treatment of persons with diabetes should take into account the stress and coping measures that influence directly their body's regulation of blood sugar and also affect their compliance with their biological regime of insulin, blood tests and diet.

"Our study moves a step beyond earlier research by developing a biopsychosocial model that reflects not only the interplay among psychosocial factors but also the way in which they combine and interact with biological factors in diabetes control," said Mark Peyrot, PhD, of Loyola College Center for Social and Community Research in Baltimore. Peyrot and his colleagues report the results of their study on diabetes control in the June issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The findings of the study support three central elements of the biopsychosocial model of diabetic control, namely:

  • The relationships of stress, coping and adherence to regime are intertwined.

  • Biological factors interact with psychosocial factors in affecting control of blood sugar.

  • The relationships with psychological factors are different for chronic and transitory blood sugar control.
The researchers worked with 57 persons with Type 1 and 61 persons with Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

In Type 1 the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin, resulting in uncontrolled surges in blood sugar. Coma may result, followed by death unless emergency medical intervention is provided. In Type 2, cell tissues are resistant to the action of insulin, and insulin levels increase to compensate for thi

Contact: Mark Peyrot, Ph.D.
Center for the Advancement of Health

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