Research Reveals Mental Health Impact on Families of Childhood Diabetes Diagnosis
- In-depth Abbott survey of parents and carers of children living with Type 1 diabetes reveals 44% of UK parents believe their child experiences mental health issues managing their condition1
- Nearly half (49%) say their child with diabetes is more anxious as a result of the pandemic2
- Abbott launches free online resources, based on research insights, to support the emotional wellbeing of children and families living with diabetes
MAIDENHEAD, 29 January 2021 – Abbott today releases findings of two research surveys, undertaken before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, examining how a childhood Type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis affects the emotional and mental health of children and their families. The research also reveals the impact of managing the condition with the added pressure of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Abbott's in-depth research study, conducted by Opinion Health, spanned six countries including the UK, and surveyed 3,600 parents, carers and their children. The study examined the impact of diagnosis and living with T1D, including healthcare, use of technology and the impact on family life. The research found almost half (44%) of UK parents and carers believe their child has issues with their mental health because of living with T1D. This is compared to 28% of UK parents and carers of children without T1D – a difference of 16%11.
The UK has the fifth highest rate in the world of children with T1D3. More than 29,000 children have been diagnosed in the UK and incidence is increasing every year4. Four out of five (81%) parents and carers found it stressful when their child was first diagnosed with T1D, with around half (54%) reporting they manage their child's diabetes well1. The research also found over half (54%) of UK parents and carers feel well supported by the healthcare system, higher than in any other country included in the research1.
The research found half (50%) of UK parents and carers of children with T1D reported that their child became more anxious post-diagnosis1. This is compared to 26% of parents and carers of children without T1D saying their children are often anxious – a difference of 24%1. More than three quarters of children (76%) themselves say having diabetes is upsetting or somewhat upsetting.
Quality of sleep was cited as one of the most stressful aspects of living with T1D. Nearly one in three (31%) of parents and carers stated that night testing and quality of sleep were in the top three most stressful aspects of the child’s condition1. More than half (55%) had to take more than five days a year off work to look after their child1.
DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
When the COVID-19 pandemic began and many people with diabetes were asked to shield in March5, Abbott wanted to understand further how children with T1D and their families were coping with lockdown so we could develop resources to support them.
In a recent survey, conducted in October 2020, Abbott received more than 600 responses from parents and carers of children who use the FreeStyle Libre System6. Nearly half (49%) think that their child is more anxious as a result of the pandemic2 and around three quarters (76%) are more worried about their children’s diabetes because of fear of the virus2.
However, in some cases, living with T1D meant that families were better prepared, with a third (33%) of parents and carers stating that living with the condition meant their child was better able to cope with lockdown restrictions2.
When asked what helped families living with T1D during the pandemic, 62% of parents and carers say that flash glucose monitoring technology has helped reduce stress related to managing their child’s condition in lockdown2.
Neil Harris, general manager of Abbott's diabetes care business in the UK and Ireland commented: "Being diagnosed with a condition like Type 1 diabetes can be daunting, so we wanted to hear directly from children and their families what it's like to live with the condition. By building our understanding, we have developed new, free, online educational materials for children, parents, carers and healthcare professionals. We hope these tools will kickstart conversations about diabetes and mental health, helping children living with diabetes and their loved ones get on with living their lives."
The new resources developed by Abbott, as a result of this research, include two e-books, The Search for Party Island and Jumpy's First School Trip, both designed to support families in opening up conversations with their children about their diabetes, through games and activities, and discuss any worries in a relaxed environment.
Two education modules have also been developed; one for healthcare professionals, the other for families. Both engage with key findings from the research, giving tools to support conversations with children around their mental health. These free-of-charge resources can be found at www.progress.freestylediabetes.co.uk
Professor Deborah Christie, consultant clinical psychologist and clinical lead for paediatric and adolescent psychological services at University College London Hospital's NHS Foundation Trust, who advised on the education modules said: "It's essential that children and young people with Type 1 diabetes are offered support for emotional wellbeing alongside their medical care. They may feel different from their friends, become angry or sad and wonder ‘why me.'"
"Providing tools for parents and healthcare professionals, to feel confident having conversations about mental health and finding ways to help children and young people talk openly, is an important beginning," she added.
Douglas Twenefour, Deputy Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: "We know that diabetes is a relentless condition that can be both a physical and mental challenge. The diagnosis and management of Type 1 diabetes can be overwhelming for an adult during normal times, so we can only imagine the additional pressures a child or adolescent currently has to face during a global pandemic. That is why it is so important to talk about how you feel and get professional support."
He added: "We at Diabetes UK are here for you too if you are struggling. You can contact us on our helpline at 0345123 2399 to get advice or just to have a chat."
Abbott is a global healthcare leader that helps people live more fully at all stages of life. Our portfolio of life-changing technologies spans the spectrum of healthcare, with leading businesses and products in diagnostics, medical devices, nutritionals and branded generic medicines. Our 107,000 colleagues serve people in more than 160 countries.
Connect with us at www.abbott.com, on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/abbott-/, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Abbott and on Twitter @AbbottNews.
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© 2021 Abbott. FreeStyle, Libre, and related brand marks are marks of Abbott.
1 Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care. Survey among 3,600 participants across six countries (UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and USA), 2019.
2 Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care. Survey among 1,083 parents/carers of children with Type 1 diabetes in the UK, 2020
3 Diabetes UK, 2013. List of countries by incidence of Type 1 Diabetes ages 0-14 https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news_landing_page/uk-has-worlds-5th-highest-rate-of-type-1-diabetes-in-children/list-of-countries-by-incidence-of-type-1-diabetes-ages-0-to-14
4 JDRF. JDRF Facts and figures about Type 1 Diabetes, National Diabetes Audit https://jdrf.org.uk/information-support/about-type-1-diabetes/facts-and-figures/
5 NHS Digital, 2020. Government advice on the NHS website regarding Coronavirus https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/shielded-patient-list
6 For children aged 4-12, a caregiver at least 18 years old is responsible for supervising, managing, and assisting them in using the FreeStyle Libre system and interpreting its readings.
About the Surveys
Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care. Survey among 3,600 participants across six countries, 2019.
The research was commissioned by Abbott and conducted by Opinion Health between August 30 and October 1, 2019. The study had 3,600 participants, including 1,800 families with at least one child (aged 4-18) with Type 1 diabetes and 1,800 families with at least one child (aged 4-18) without Type 1 diabetes. Conducted across six countries – USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain – each with a sample of 600. In the UK, 205 parents with children with Type 1 diabetes and 95 children with Type 1 diabetes were surveyed. Alongside this, 188 parents of children who didn’t have Type 1 diabetes and 112 children who didn’t have Type 1 diabetes were also surveyed.
Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care. Survey among 1,083 parents/carers of children with Type 1 diabetes in the UK, 2020.
To understand how children with Type 1 diabetes and their parents are affected by the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Abbott undertook new research among 1,083 parents/carers of children with Type 1 diabetes in their database, receiving more than 600 responses to each question (October 2020).
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