Women are better at coping with problems than men, right? Not when it comes to being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to a new survey, that diagnosis had a greater negative impact on women’s emotional outlook and adherence to diet and exercise than the same diagnosis given to men. The survey was conducted in September 2011, and included 831 completed responses from 458 women and 373 men.
“These findings make sense,” says Dr. Carolyn Daitch, Director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Dr. Daitch is a psychologist with 30 years of experience treating anxiety in patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. “So many women are caretakers, and this makes it harder for them to carve out time to care for themselves.”
Half of the women surveyed said they felt “overwhelmed” when it comes to living with diabetes, while less than one third of men reported similar feelings. And just over half of the women respondents admitted to feeling in control of their diabetes, compared to more than two thirds of men.
“Feeling ‘overwhelmed’ may be because diabetes impacts so many body systems and so many behaviors at home and at the workplace,” adds Sarah Matunis, RPh, a pharmacist and corporate clinical coordinator for Rite-Aid who collaborated on the study with WebMD.
According to the survey, gender also plays a role in maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. Just over one third of women respondents said they exercise 30 minutes or more daily, while nearly half of the men reported that they do. Women also are less likely to say they eat well, with just 45 percent avoiding sweet and salty snacks, compared to 56 percent of men.
“Anecdotally, women overeat when they are under stress, while men tend to overeat because food tastes good,” points out Dr. Daitch. “Learning you have diabetes is certainly an added stressor. Women tend to put themselves last, so it’s harder for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, women are more prone to anxiety and depression, which leads to pessimism.”
Survey results also showed that managing diabetes doesn’t get easier over time for either men or women. Women reported that they had the most difficulty keeping up positive lifestyle behaviors such as exercising or eating well five to 10 years after diagnosis, and men experienced more negative emotional and psychological impact 10 or more years after learning they had diabetes.
Another survey finding is that women living with diabetes – particularly those aged 45 to 64 years- are enthusiastic about receiving tools that can help them better manage their condition. Both Sarah Metunis and Dr. Daitch note that talking with a pharmacist in person at a pharmacy, on the telephone, or online can be very helpful.
The special Rite-Aid sponsored section of WebMD’s “Diabetes head2toe” plan, which is customized for each member, includes a personal diabetes work plan, daily glucose tracker, weekly workout log, recipes, meal planning tips, and monthly lifestyle summary reports, as well as comprehensive information about living with diabetes.