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Couples type 2 diabetes intervention improves relationship, study reports

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Involving the partner of someone with type 2 diabetes in health interventions is beneficial for both in the relationship, research has found.

A collaborative couples intervention resulted in significant improvements in relationship satisfaction and eased the partner’s fears.

“Providers often worry about engaging partners, for fear they’ll become a member of the ‘diabetes police’ and cause tension in the relationship,” said lead author Dr Paula Trief, State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University.

“We found that involved partners benefited emotionally, and also felt better about their relationship, as they worked together to deal with the challenges of diabetes.”

The study examined the outcomes of interventions in three groups. All groups received two self-management education calls.

The first group (couples calls) involved 12 calls to couples, one of whom in the relationship had type 2 diabetes, which included support with behaviour change. A second group (individual calls) involved 12 calls to only the individual with diabetes. The third group (diabetes education calls) involved only the two education calls, and these were to individuals not as couples.

The couples calls placed emphasis on communication, collaboration and support. Around two-thirds of the partners in the study were female.

The outcomes from all three groups were recorded at four, eight and 12 months. Changes in stress, relationship satisfaction, depressive symptoms, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and fat were all measured.

Partners given the opportunity to take part in the calls and therefore encouraged to play a role within the treatment plans experienced less stress and worry compared to the partners in the other groups who were not involved within the calls.

The researchers also noted that within the couples calls group there were larger increases in marital satisfaction and some improvements blood pressure for the person with diabetes compared with the other two groups.

The results showed no significant differences in weight loss between the groups which the researchers suggested may need to be directly targeted at partners.

The findings have been published in the Diabetic Medicine journal.



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