Over 40 per cent of people with roots in the Indian sub-continent with diabetes in the UK could be risking their health and experiencing emotional distress by keeping their diabetes a secret, according to a survey by leading health charity organisation, Diabetes U.K.
The survey of over 3,700 people with diabetes, conducted during Diabetes Week (12-18 June, 2011), found that 41 per cent of Asian people had either kept their diabetes a secret or it was still a secret, compared to 33 per cent of white people.
The prevalence of diabetes in Asian people is significantly higher than the white population living in the UK as South Asian people are six times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
The survey also found that not talking about their diabetes had a greater impact on Asian people as 46 per cent felt this had impacted on how they manage their condition, compared to 27 per cent of white people.
As many as 37 per cent of Asian people also said this had impacted on their physical or emotional health, compared to 22 per cent of white people.
Over a quarter of Asian people (29 per cent) had kept their diabetes a secret because they did not want to feel different and 19 per cent had done so for fear of discrimination or bullying.
The survey also found that Asian people were more likely to keep their diabetes a secret from those closest to them.
67 per cent had kept their diabetes a secret from their friends (compared to 55 per cent of white people) and 50 per cent had kept it a secret from their family (compared to 19 per cent of white people).
Barbara Young, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “We have to ask why so many Asian people with diabetes keep it a secret. Learning to live with and managing diabetes is challenging enough without the physical and psychological impact of such a burden.
“It is hugely concerning that the health and well-being of so many people could be at risk as a result of discrimination or prejudice.”
Many survey respondents commented that they missed insulin injections or delayed testing their blood glucose to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
Badly managed blood glucose levels can increase the risk of long term complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation, and short term complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)3 and hypoglycaemia4 (hypo).
Young added: “There are 2.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK who need friends, family, employers and the public to understand how common diabetes is becoming and how serious it can be if people aren’t supported to manage their condition.
“We believe all people should receive enough support to help them manage their diabetes and that services such as our Diabetes UK Careline are so vital.
“Simply knowing you have someone to talk to when you need it most can make all the difference to help people better manage their diabetes and reduce their risk of developing devastating complications.”
Other key statistics from the survey include: 24 per cent of Asian people avoided talking about their diabetes because they did not want it to affect their chances at work, compared to 16 per cent of white people; and 21 per cent of Asian people avoided talking about their diabetes because they were embarrassed about it (compared to 11 per cent of white people).