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We’re funding vital research to tackle diabetes distress

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We’ve partnered with the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR), to co-fund a new research project to spot, treat, and prevent type 1 diabetes distress.

We hope this important research will help more people with type 1 diabetes to get the emotional support they need to live more happily with the condition.

With nearly £3 million of funding Professor Jackie Sturt will develop and test a new programme to detect, manage, and combat diabetes distress. This research could transform the way we care for diabetes distress in the UK and make it a part of everyday diabetes care.

Diabetes distress is what some people feel when they’re overwhelmed by the relentlessness of diabetes. And this can make it even harder to manage the condition. 

There’s evidence that nearly half of all adults living with type 1 diabetes experience high levels of diabetes distress.

Our Diabetes Research Steering Groups (DRSGs) listened to people with diabetes, who told us better care for diabetes distress matters to them. And they heard from care and research experts that we don’t know enough about spotting diabetes distress or how best to support people with type 1 who are going through it.

There’s currently no effective treatment for diabetes distress available on the NHS.

Lisa Gough lives with type 1 diabetes and told us:

"Diabetes needs to be treated more holistically. It’s an all-consuming, never-ending condition. We are often treated as just our HbA1c's and not a person living with this unrelenting condition. Things need to change, as without good mental health you cannot manage your diabetes."

Collaboration to combat diabetes distress

Our DRSGs set about filling the diabetes distress research gap. We put a call out to scientists to come up with ideas for projects that look at how diabetes distress can be prevented, and how to identify it quicker and treat it better when it does happen.

To bring even more expertise and investment to the table, we teamed up with the NIHR to co-fund a multi-million pound new research programme, led by Professor Jackie Sturt at King’s College London.

Helping people with type 1 diabetes to D-stress

Prof Sturt and her team will combine the best of three existing treatments, developed and tested by researchers in the USA and Denmark, to detect, manage, and prevent type 1 diabetes distress.

They’ll consult with people with type 1 diabetes and healthcare professionals to pick and choose aspects from the existing treatments with the most potential, to form a new programme called D-stress. They’ll test it in a trial to find out if it can reduce diabetes distress, and improve blood sugar levels and quality of life.

Prof Sturt and her team member
Prof Sturt and her team member, at the D-stress Programme Kick-off meeting

Along the way, they’ll check in with participants and healthcare professionals, to make sure the programme’s fit for purpose, feasible to deliver, and cost-effective to scale up and roll out in the NHS.

Prof Sturt’s vital research could transform the way we care for type 1 diabetes distress, by creating a first-of-its-kind treatment in the UK to focus on the emotional aspects of living with diabetes. If the programme is shown to work, it could be rapidly adopted by the NHS. 

Making diabetes distress part of everyday diabetes care could mean more people have the support to cope with the relentlessness of type 1 diabetes, take care of themselves, and live happily.

Prof Sturt said:

"I am excited to be leading an impressive team of national and international experts in diabetes distress. Together we seek to develop a care pathway in the NHS to meet the everyday emotional and psychological needs of people living with type 1 diabetes.

"Diabetes distress is currently a priority unmet need for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and we will be working with diabetes health professionals who also strongly recognise this need."

Anna Morris, Assistant Director of Research Strategy and Partnerships at Diabetes UK said:

"We’re thrilled to be working with the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research scheme again, and this partnership will enable vital research into addressing type 1 diabetes distress.

"This funding represents a significant step forward in the ambition to improve the lives of those affected by diabetes distress, a critical priority identified by our DRSGs, providing extra support that people living with type 1 diabetes deserve."

Professor Danny McAuley, Scientific Director for NIHR Programmes, said:

"We are delighted to be partnering with Diabetes UK to co-fund this important research. NIHR is funded by the public, and this investment in research on diabetes distress is not just about managing the condition, but about empowering people with type 1 diabetes to live happier lives. Preventing and treating diabetes distress will help provide better care for thousands of people living with type 1 diabetes in the UK."

Read more about Prof Sturt's project here.

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