Is Self-Compassion Related to Behavioural, Clinical and Emotional Outcomes in Adults with Diabetes? Results from the Second Diabetes MILES—Australia (MILES-2) Study

Abstract

Diabetes mellitus is a complex chronic condition requiring daily self-management to prevent/delay the onset of diabetes-related complications. The emphasis on control for diabetes self-management can lead to feelings of self-blame and failure when targets are not reached. Self-compassion may offer an alternative way of relating to the self when such feelings arise, and in turn, positively influence diabetes health outcomes. However, little is known about how self-compassion relates to behavioural, clinical and emotional outcomes in adults with diabetes. The aim of the current study was therefore to determine the associations between self-compassion and diabetes-related health behaviours and clinical outcomes, and emotional health outcomes. Cross-sectional data from adults (N = 1907) aged 18–75 years with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, who participated in the second Diabetes MILES—Australia (MILES-2) study, were analysed. Behavioural outcomes were healthy eating and physical activity (SDSCA subscales); clinical outcome was self-reported haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c; an important measure of average blood glucose in diabetes management); emotional outcomes were depressive symptoms (PHQ-8), anxiety symptoms (GAD-7) and diabetes distress (PAID). Self-compassion was measured using the Self-Compassion Scale Short-Form (SCS-SF). Self-compassion was significantly lower among those with severe diabetes distress or moderate-to-severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, as compared to those with no/mild symptoms. Further, hierarchical linear regression analyses, split by diabetes type, revealed that self-compassion was significantly associated with all specified outcomes, with the strongest associations observed among the emotional outcomes (β range, − 0.47 to − 0.55; all p < 0.01). The findings indicate self-compassion is meaningfully associated with more optimal behavioural, clinical and, especially, emotional outcomes in adults with diabetes.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all study participants who took part in this research.

Funding

The key researchers on this study were supported by core funding provided to the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes by Diabetes Victoria and Deakin University. An unrestricted educational grant from Sanofi ANZ supported recruitment activities and the development of the study website. Sanofi ANZ was not involved in the study design, data collection or data analysis and had no input on the preparation of this manuscript.

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AV, GN and JLB conceptualised the study. AV analysed the data and wrote the paper. GN and JLB assisted with data analysis, collaborated on the design of the paper and final writing and editing of the manuscript. FP, AMF and JS collaborated on the design of the paper and provided feedback and contributed to subsequent revisions of the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Adriana D. Ventura.

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The study was conducted in compliance with the guidelines of Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee.

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Ventura, A.D., Nefs, G., Browne, J.L. et al. Is Self-Compassion Related to Behavioural, Clinical and Emotional Outcomes in Adults with Diabetes? Results from the Second Diabetes MILES—Australia (MILES-2) Study. Mindfulness 10, 1222–1231 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-1067-0

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Keywords

  • Self-compassion
  • Diabetes
  • Diabetes distress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-care