Illness representations and psychological well-being were investigated in two patient
groups diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes; Type 1 diabetic patients, and
patients with diabetes secondary to cystic fibrosis, a pre-existing, life threatening,
genetic condition. The purpose of this study was to compare the illness
representations held by patients to investigate whether differences in perceptions of
consequences and control existed between groups. This study also investigated
whether patients' perceptions of illness played a role in levels of anxiety and
depression and whether differences in illness representations existed between
patients and their health care teams.
Participants completed self-report questionnaires measuring illness representations of
diabetes and levels of anxiety and depression. All eligible participants were sent the
study pack to their home address by post. A total of 22 cystic fibrosis related
diabetes (CFRD) and 45 Type 1 diabetes patients completed and returned the
questionnaires. Age, duration of diabetes and recent blood glucose level (HbAlc
level) information was obtained for each participant. All participants were over 16
years of age. In addition, a total of 17 staff, working within the adult cystic fibrosis
service completed an adapted version of the Illness Perceptions Questionnaire.
Results & Discussion:
There were no significant differences between the two patient groups on perceived
consequences or treatment control of diabetes. Contrary to prediction, the CFRD
group perceived significantly lower levels of personal control over their diabetes than
the Type 1 group (pc.Ol). This finding may, in part, be due to the CFRD patients'
perception of their diabetes as a largely uncontrollable consequence of the
progression of their cystic fibrosis. No associations were found between illness
representations and levels of anxiety and depression in the CFRD group, however
perceived consequences and treatment control were predictive of levels of
depression, measured by the Well-being Questionnaire, in the Type 1 group
(Adjusted R squared = .208, p = 0.016). Differences existed between the staff group
and the CFRD patient group on perceived consequences of diabetes (<.001) but staff
and patients' beliefs converged on perceived levels of control. Clinical implications
and future research recommendations are discussed.