952,000 people with diabetes in the UK, 34% of the nation's total, keep their condition a secret. They could be seriously risking their physical and emotional health by doing so, according to a survey carried out by Diabetes UK, a leading health charity.
49% if those who keep their diabetes a secret say it has affected how they manage their illness, while 39% believe it has impacted on both their physical and emotional health.
27% say that fear of bullying or discrimination drove them to secrecy. 59% of them kept their diabetes a secret from work colleagues and bosses, while 56% had not revealed their health status to friends. Fear of poorer employment opportunities was also a factor, as well as not wanting people to assume that an unhealthy lifestyle caused their condition.
CEO of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, said:
"We have to ask why so many people with diabetes keep it a secret. Learning to live with and managing diabetes is challenging enough without the physical and psychological impact of such a burden. It is hugely concerning that the health and well-being of so many people could be at risk as a result of discrimination or prejudice."
Some measures to avoid drawing attention to themselves include skipping insulin injections or postponing blood glucose testing - both of which can raise the risk of long-term diabetes complications, such as limb amputation, blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke. There is also a higher risk of short-term complications, such as hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. Both these conditions can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.
Barbara Young said:
"There are 2.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK who need friends, family, employers and the public to understand how common diabetes is becoming and how serious it can be if people aren't supported to manage their condition.
We believe all people should receive enough support to help them manage their diabetes and that's why services such as our Diabetes UK Careline are so vital. Simply knowing you have someone to talk to when you need it most can make all the difference to help people better manage their diabetes and reduce their risk of developing devastating complications."
The survey also revealed that:
- 28% of men and 39% of women with diabetes keep their condition a secret
- 48% of 17 to 21 year-olds keep their condition a secret
- 41% of individuals with diabetes would welcome more psychological support
- 48% of children under the age of 16 have kept their condition a secret at school
Source: Diabetes UK
Written by Christian Nordqvist