Nearly one-half of diabetes patients have glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels above recommended targets. Effective physician–patient communication improves glycemia and diabetes self-care; however, communication gaps may exist that prevent patients from discussing self-care problems with treatment providers.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We assessed diabetes patients’ (n = 316, 85% white, 51% female, 71% type 2 diabetes, 59 ± 11 years old, 16 ± 3 years education, 19 ± 13 diabetes duration, and HbA1c = 7.9 ± 1.4%) HbA1c, frequency of self-care, diabetes-related distress, depressive and anxiety symptoms, coping styles, diabetes quality of life, and self-care communication in the treatment relationship. Multivariate logistic regression models examined the main and interaction effects of health and psychosocial factors associated with patients’ reluctance to discuss self-care.
Patients reported positive relationships with their doctors and valued honest communication; however, 30% of patients were reluctant to discuss self-care. Reluctant patients reported less frequent self-care (P = 0.05), lower diabetes quality of life (P = 0.002), and more diabetes-related distress (P = 0.001), depressive symptoms (P < 0.001), and anxiety symptoms (P = 0.001). Patients who reported elevated depressive symptoms, although not necessarily major depression, were more likely to be reluctant to discuss self-care (odds ratio [OR] 1.66 for 10-point change in t score; P < 0.001), whereas patients who were older (OR 0.78 for 10-year change; P = 0.05) and those who used more self-controlled coping styles (OR 0.78 for 10-point change; P = 0.007) were less likely to be reluctant.
Awareness of elevated depressive symptoms is important in clinical practice given that these patients may be more reluctant to discuss self-care. Interventions and evidence-based approaches are needed to improve both depressive symptoms and physician-patient communication about self-care.