Adults with Type 1 Diabetes

Partner Relationships and Outcomes

Published in: Journal of Health Psychology, 2015

Posted on RAND.org on October 29, 2015

by Paula M. Trief, Yawen Jiang, Roy W. Beck, Peter J. Huckfeldt, Tara K. Knight, Kellee M. Miller, Ruth S. Weinstock

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Research Questions

  1. What associations are there between relationship status of adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and disease-related outcomes?
  2. Does the support style of relationship partners affect T1D patients' diabetes outcomes, such as blood sugar control, body mass index, and self care?

Health outcomes of adults with type 1 diabetes may be affected by relationship status and quality. Our objective was to examine associations between relationship status, relationship factors, and outcomes in adults with type 1 diabetes. N = 1660 participants completed surveys measuring relationship satisfaction and perceived partner support style (active engagement, protective buffering, over-protection). Differences in glycemic control and adherence for those married/partnered versus not were insignificant. Higher relationship satisfaction, and having an engaged, not over-protective, partner was associated with better glycemic control and self-care. Helping partners support patients, avoiding over-protection, may enhance relationship and diabetes-related patient outcomes for adults with type 1 diabetes.

Key Findings

  • Being in a relationship, whether married or partnered, was not associated with glycemic control or body mass index.
  • Patients with partners who were actively engaged in helping manage T1D and who were rated less protective expressed greater relationship satisfaction.
  • Patients expressing higher relationship satisfaction demonstrated better blood sugar control and self-care behavior.

Recommendations

  • Interventions that focus on helping partners become actively engaged in their partners' T1D management—without becoming overly protective—could be helpful.
  • Further research on the influence of relationships on patient outcomes is needed.

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