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- The COVID-19 pandemic has upended just about everyone’s lives, but it’s introduced some particularly unique health challenges for those living with type 2 diabetes.
- In a survey of One Drop members, we found that people living with type 2 diabetes had trouble keeping up with doctor appointments, physical activity, nutrition, and more, which was linked with higher levels of diabetes-related distress and, in some cases, higher A1C.
- With these results in mind, it’s more important than ever to consider the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic when developing diabetes management programs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone. But if you live with type 2 diabetes, you’ve probably faced some uniquely difficult obstacles in the past few years. From postponed preventive appointments with your doctor to closed gyms and canceled workout classes, taking care of your health has likely required a complete shift in most of your daily habits. But what do these changes mean in the long term for those living with type 2 diabetes? And what can we do to mitigate some of these challenges?
Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 On Life with Type 2 Diabetes
Again, there’s no denying the profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on all of us, regardless of our health backgrounds. However, there’s also no question that living with a chronic condition, such as type 2 diabetes, can further complicate the experience of enduring this pandemic.
For example, a 2020 analysis of the COVID-19 Impact Survey results showed that adults with cardiometabolic disease (including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack or stroke, liver disease, or end-stage liver disease) were more likely to report staying home compared to those who don’t live with these chronic conditions—presumably because of the COVID-19 complications associated with these conditions (not to mention the research showing a possible increased risk for developing diabetes after experiencing a COVID-19 infection). And we already know that staying home and social distancing during the pandemic, regardless of whether you live with a chronic condition, has been linked with several negative effects on mental health, including a higher risk of depression.
Then there are the day-to-day effects of the COVID pandemic on your ability to adequately manage type 2 diabetes through doctor appointments and healthy habits. In a survey of over 170 One Drop members with type 2 diabetes, we found that 63% of people reported missing or delaying preventive appointments, including dental cleanings (42%), A1C or blood pressure checks (35%), and primary care visits (25%). In terms of health behaviors, One Drop members shared that they found it most difficult to maintain habits around physical activity (68%), vegetable intake (32%), and carbohydrate tracking (37%).
What’s more, among those reporting these impacts, higher levels of impact in all areas were linked with higher levels of diabetes-related distress and higher A1C (with the exception of missed appointments, which were unrelated to A1C, but linked with diabetes distress).
Meaning, the more negative effects you notice on your daily health habits and routines, the more likely you are to feel overwhelmed by managing your diabetes.
Alleviating the Pressures of the Pandemic
Living with type 2 diabetes already means being vigilant about several aspects of your health, and the COVID-19 pandemic only adds another, more complicated item to the list.
While it’s unclear whether the impacts reported in our survey would be more severe in the absence of One Drop, most respondents noted that they found the platform helpful for managing diabetes.
With these results in mind, it’s crucial for diabetes management programs such as One Drop to anticipate and target pandemic-related barriers and challenges. Whether it’s conversations with your One Drop coach about how the pandemic has changed your health routine or forecasts and insights that help you understand the ups and downs of your blood sugar between doctor appointments, One Drop can be a supportive, empowering resource as you navigate life with type 2 diabetes amid a global pandemic.
For a deeper dive into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with type 2 diabetes using One Drop, see below for the full results of our survey, presented at the 2022 International Conference on Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD).