Is there a social stigma attached to type 2 diabetes?
Many people living with the illness would say yes.
In fact, surveys show that many people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes feel judged. According to research from the marketing firm dQ&A:
- 76 percent of type 1 patients felt stigmatized, compared to 52 percent with type 2.
- 83 percent of parents of type 1 children said they felt stigmatized.
- More than half of people with type 2 diabetes who used intensive insulin therapies – multiple injections or a daily pump – felt stigmatized.
What causes this stigma?
As Karen Pallarito of Health.com writes, type 2 diabetes often carries an added stigma because many people believe it’s a matter of willpower: don’t eat too much, you won’t get diabetes. But there’s more to it than that, she says:
Genes and other risk factors play a complex role in determining who gets type 2 diabetes and who doesn’t. While the likelihood of having type 2 diabetes increases with age and weight, that isn’t always the case. Anywhere from 10% to 20% of all people who have the disease are not overweight. What’s more, many overweight people never get diabetes.”
Kim Doty, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2006, told Pallarito there’s “a certain amount of shame tied to diabetes.
“Diabetes is an epidemic,” she says, “but your average person associates it with obesity and being overweight, and you kind of get the attitude from people that it’s your own fault.”
People will support you
Pallarito spoke to people with diabetes who were afraid to talk about the illness because of this stigma.
But some said that by going public with their diabetes, they found support.
“Once you start talking, a person will say, ‘I have diabetes,’ or ‘I know a person who has diabetes,'” says Chicago resident Loretha Huff. “It opens up the opportunity to share and lets you know that you’re not the only one on a journey.”
More knowledge and awareness can help people fight the stigma.
“There’s an important genetic contribution to developing diabetes that’s out of people’s control,” William Bornstein, MD, an endocrinologist at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta told Health.com. “Secondly, it may be actually harder for folks with diabetes to lose weight, and that may be part of the disease as well.”
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