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Stress and Chronic Illness: the Case of Diabetes

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Abstract

Globally, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses. Managing T2DM is a major challenge now affecting the lives of around 200 million people. Even when medication, diet, and physical activity regimens are maintained, blood sugar levels might not be effectively controlled because stress triggers the release of sugar into the blood. This makes the management of stress an important adjunct to the treatment of T2DM. Stress includes both life stress, the major issues that people face in their lives, such as job loss, divorce, or death of a loved one, and daily hassles, smaller everyday problems, such as deadlines for work, traffic hold-ups, or family disagreements. The stress levels created by these events are exacerbated by the stress created by the demands of managing diabetes. In this paper, we first examine the evidence for the relationship between stress and poor blood sugar control in people with T2DM. Then, we consider research that has examined the impact of various stress management strategies on blood sugar level. Finally, we discuss some promising psychological techniques for managing stress that could be helpful for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. We note the double benefit of physical activity, which directly assists in the metabolism of sugar from the blood and indirectly reduces acute stress and chronic stress reactivity, thus providing a buffer against the effects of stress for people with T2DM.

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Morris, T., Moore, M. & Morris, F. Stress and Chronic Illness: the Case of Diabetes. J Adult Dev 18, 70–80 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-010-9118-3

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