Diabetic Apathy?

When people find out they have Type 2 diabetes, they are likely to be asked by health professionals to make certain lifestyle changes as part of their treatment. Whether losing weight, making dietary improvements, or exercising more, these changes can lead to improved blood glucose control and a reduced risk of diabetic complications. Depending on a person’s situation, they can also be difficult to accomplish.

So it should come as no surprise that a recent survey finds a huge gap between what people with diabetes know they should do to improve their health, and what they actually manage to achieve. More troubling, however, is that many people say they have not even tried to follow lifestyle recommendations.


The survey, part of what is known as the SHIELD (Study to Help Improve Early Evaluation and Management of Risk Factors Leading to Diabetes) study, asked questions of 3,867 people with Type 2 diabetes. According to a WebMD article on the study — which was presented last week at the 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association — 87% of respondents said they knew that obesity could worsen their diabetes. Only 70%, however, had tried to lose weight in the previous year, and only a third had achieved their weight goals and maintained the weight loss for at least six months. When it came to exercise, 63% of respondents said their doctor had recommended an increased level of physical activity within the past year. Only 13%, however, had been physically active in the last week. A full 5% of respondents said they didn’t even try to stay healthy, and 17% said they preferred taking a pill to improving their diet and getting exercise.

According to Andrew Green, MD, who presented the study, the results show that lack of access to health care is not the cause of the respondents’ situation; more than 80% had gone to the doctor at least three times in the past year. Instead, he says, the survey simply reflects a lack of motivation. This could be changed through a tax on sugary beverages, insurance discounts for people who improve their health, and other targeted efforts.

What do you think — are the results of this survey as disappointing as the authors make them out to be? Have you tried to make lifestyle changes recommended to you by a health professional? How well have you succeeded in making those changes? What incentives do you think would make you, or other people, more likely to follow healthier habits? Leave a comment below!

  • Frank Novak

    Dear Friends of Diabetes,

    I am surprised alot of people don’t take diabetes more serious. I work out daily if possible and am well aware if you play then you better get up the next day and aim to work it out of your body. I am 56 years of age and was officially diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic last summer. My average A1c for the past year has been 5.9% as I had went from 8.2% (August) to 5.6%(November) to 6.2% (February) to 5.8% (May) to well will see what my readings will be in July. One thing for sure is never assume that the medicine(pills or if you are on insulan) is going to take of the diabetes. You must exercise and kind of watch what you eat. That’s it in a nutshell!

  • Natalie Sera

    When I had a coronary artery spasm, I was sent to cardiac rehab. We worked in a directed environment, were given a non-discouraging routine, but most important, it was fun to interact with the other people.

    Why can’t diabetics have a similar opportunity? It would be a lot more motivating to work with other less-than-magazine-model shaped diabetics than with single-minded, leave-me-alone gym rats.

  • John Koz

    When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes back in Feb 2011 after developing neuropathy my life changed. I dropped 45 lbs. by changing my eating habits & exercising daily. My blood glucose level is in normal range and my cholesterol level is normal after my recent blood test.

  • Jenn

    I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 2 years ago. Since then, I can honestly say that I rely more on the meds than changing my lifestyle. It’s sad, but I am disabled and I only get $40 a month in food stamps to eat with. How can that help someone who is diabetic and a single parent? Plus, I have so many other health issues, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks that sometimes I feel like, “whats the point?” Depression sucks. I feel bad for those who have it AND have diabetes. :(

  • Lynn Franks

    Personally I don’t believe it is motivation it is discouragement. You try to lose weight and maybe it’s fractional so you get frustrated and give up. I also believe there is a disconnect happening. You know you have to lose weight but results don’t come as easy as going through a drive-in. Sometimes hard work just doesn’t give immediate results and discouragement takes over. Or my favorite is when you goto the doctor and they don’t acknowledge you tried rather why didn’t you try harder is the message fo the day. Another day of failure.
    I eat healthy for the most part, live on a working ranch and go to the gym but guess what I still don’t lose weight and yes I keep a food journal ad nauseum. I just haven’t found the one-trick-pony yet.
    The punishment for lack of goal attainment reinforces negativity. I don’t drink sugary drinks so to icrease the tax on them would have no impact on me.

  • John

    I take no pills and almost see no doctor. I do exercise and I’m careful with what I eat. My glucose level isn’t high. I may be wrong, but I’m under the impression that doctors want us to come back to do tests and take pills so that they can make money. I wouldn’t like to spend my days worrying about many numbers.

    My problem with diabetes isn’t high glucose level, but apathy. I don’t feel like doing much most of the time.