Australians with type 1 diabetes (T1D) find living with the chronic disease has made them a stronger person, despite 1 in 2 experiencing both mental and physical health issues, according to new research released ahead of World Diabetes Day (14 November).
More than 120,000 Australians live with T1D, a life-long autoimmune disease that is not currently preventable. T1D has no known cause and no known cure.
Conducted by JDRF, the survey found Australians living with T1D, responding to the survey, experienced issues with mental health (53 per cent) and physical health (49 per cent) as a result of their disease. Beyond this, it also had impacts on significant life choices, with more than one third (38 per cent) stating their T1D had an impact on their career choices.
JDRF CEO Mike Wilson said the findings are concerning.
“There is currently no known cure for this lifelong chronic disease. Constant monitoring of blood glucose levels, carbohydrate counting, and insulin injections can be exhausting for both the person living with type 1 diabetes, as well as their carer if they aren’t yet old enough to do it themselves,” Mr Wilson said.
“We understand how incredibly frustrating type 1 diabetes can be for everyone impacted by it. At times people can feel helpless as a result of the unrelenting nature of the condition. We encourage people to not give up hope, and to seek help if they are feeling overwhelmed.”
The JDRF Peer Support Program is a volunteer network that connects people affected by T1D with someone who has been in their shoes and can give practical help and advice, as well as a caring ear.
One person who can relate to the challenges of T1D is former Team Novo Nordisk professional cyclist Justin Morris, who also lives with T1D. He was unable to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot due to the restrictions prohibiting people with T1D.
“Growing up all I wanted to do was become a pilot. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was eleven and was devastated to later learn that this would come between me and my dream,” Mr Morris said.
“This had a huge impact on my mental health, I was devastated. But I was adamant that I wouldn’t let my diagnosis rule my life. I found exercise a great way to control my blood glucose levels and found a new passion in cycling. I’ve been able to travel the world riding professionally with Team Novo Nordisk – take that type 1!”
Exercise is important for the management of type 1 diabetes, yet 1 in 4 (25 per cent) survey respondents reported missing out on participating in school sports as a result of their condition.
“This statistic was shocking to me. Sport is such an important part of my life and has helped me keep my type 1 under control. I encourage everyone living with type 1 diabetes to find a sport or exercise they enjoy and keep it up,” Mr Morris added.
World Diabetes Day is this Saturday, 14 November. More information about type 1 diabetes and the JDRF Peer Support Program can be found at www.jdrf.org.au.
Other significant findings from the respondents to the survey include:
• The majority of survey respondents were diagnosed with T1D as an adolescent (33.78%)
• The majority of survey respondents (42.93%) did not experience any negatives as a result of T1D at school
• 25% of survey respondents missed out on participating in school sports, and 37% were unable to take part in a school activity or excursion
• There was an overwhelming majority (70.73%) of survey respondents who didn’t report any negatives experiences as a result of their T1D during their teen years, but 20% said they didn’t ask someone on a date because of their T1D
• More than one third (38.52%) of survey respondents said their T1D impacted their career choices
• While T1D made people a stronger person, it caused more than half (53%) of survey respondents mental health issues, and almost half (49%) physical health issues
• Survey respondents reported the most common misconception of T1D to be that it was caused by poor diet/lifestyle (48%)
• Interestingly, the loved ones of someone living with T1D reported lower levels of negative experiences than those living personally with T1D.
JDRF is the leading global organisation funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF Australia is built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on an international stage to pool resources, passion and energy. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested nearly $2 billion since our inception. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers in seven countries are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. Find us at jdrf.org.au or on Facebook at facebook.com/jdrfoz or Twitter @jdrfaus
About the survey
Buchan Consulting commissioned a survey on behalf of JDRF of more than 700 Australians affected by type 1 diabetes to gauge the experiences of people with type 1 diabetes across different age groups. The survey was completed by people living with type 1 diabetes (42.43%), or a loved one of someone living with type 1 diabetes (56.72%). The survey consisted of 23 questions on the challenges of living with the chronic disease during different stages of life (i.e. school, adulthood, parenthood), disease misconceptions and stigmas, and experiences with bullying and exclusion from a type 1 diagnosis. The survey was administered online and its results were compiled by Buchan Consulting. More information can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org
About Team Novo Nordisk
Team Novo Nordisk is a global all-diabetes sports team of cyclists, triathletes and runners, spearheaded by the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. Comprised of nearly 100 athletes from over 20 countries, Team Novo Nordisk has competed in China, the United States, Japan, among other countries in 2015.
The Team Novo Nordisk mission is to inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes. For more information visit www.teamnovonordisk.com