Religion Shapes Glucose Control in Marriages With Diabetes

Religious beliefs can affect how diabetic patients and their spouses cope with the stress of diabetes, with positive attitudes resulting in good lifestyle habits that result in greater success with glycemic control for the diabetic spouse, new US research indicates.

The study was published online June 7 in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

“The current study found that both partners’ use of religion to cope with type 2 diabetes-related stress significantly predicted their involvement in shared glycemic control behaviors,” write Frank Fincham, PhD, Florida State University, Tallahassee, and colleagues.

But prior work has shown that only 10% of doctors report addressing the subject of religion with their patients, the researchers say.

Physicians need to overcome their reluctance to discuss such issues, they add, because they could explain to couples who are religious how their faith could help them to handle the stress that diabetes places on a marriage, and in turn help them improve lifestyle behaviors and subsequent blood glucose control in the affected spouse.

Positive Coping = Better Control; Negative Coping Is the Opposite

The study involved 87 heterosexual couples in which one spouse had type 2 diabetes and the other did not; both were given questionnaires to complete. Spouses had been married an average of 24 years, and over 89% of both individuals within each couple reported some degree of religiosity.

Type of religion wasn’t specified, and a broad mix of ethnic groups was examined — around half of the participants were white, 20% Latino, 15% African American, just under 10% Asian, and around 5% Middle Eastern. They were all recruited in Southern California: from a diabetes treatment center, a diabetes community support group, a primary care clinic, or local faith-based organizations.

“Religious coping was measured using a brief version of the RCOPE, a…

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