CAMDEN — Blood sugar control, exercise, and taking medication as directed are among the most important steps to managing diabetes every day, but patients aren’t alone in trying to adhere to healthy behaviors.
Kristin August, an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers–Camden, is studying how a patient’s social network — a spouse, family, and friends — play a part in diabetes management.
“Because most research to date has focused on social support, how social control — or efforts to regulate a person’s behavior when they are unable to do it themselves — influences health is a new direction for this field. It’s exciting because there are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered,” August says.
August focuses her work on how families, particularly couples, work together to manage diabetes. In the United States, more than 25 million adults age 20 or older has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
August says married patients have come to expect that their spouses be involved in the daily management of the chronic disease.
“Spouses are very involved in their partners’ diabetes management. Usually, they help through both social support and control efforts aimed at improving adherence,” August says.
Prior research has shown that some patients are unlikely to adhere to many aspects of their regimen because diabetes requires a patient’s constant attention to dietary choices and other health behaviors important for successful diabetes management. Therefore, spouses become directly involved in monitoring their partners’ diabetes management.
“Spousal involvement can include persuading them or reminding them to adhere to healthy behaviors, and even criticizing them when they don’t adhere,” August says.
What’s missing from current research, however, is how members of a patient’s extended family, friends, and health care providers are involved in diabetes management and how they influence healthy behaviors among individuals from various backgrounds, she says.
August is performing a study to determine the appropriate norms for social network involvement in diabetes management and how these norms differ by age, gender, and race. The study further seeks to understand how these norms influence health status, health behaviors, and emotional responses to such involvement.
“We want to find out what expectations patients have of others while managing diabetes and how that involvement impacts health behaviors and psychological well-being,” August says. “I’m hoping that policymakers and clinicians will see my work and more effectively design psychosocial interventions to help individuals manage diabetes.”
August is seeking participants for her study from the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas. They must be age 45 years or older, be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by a health care provider, and regularly see a health care provider for diabetes care.
Participants will receive $20 for their participation and be entered into a drawing for an additional $100. To participate in the study, call (856) 225-6784 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Moorestown resident, August earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and her doctoral degree and postdoctoral training from the University of California–Irvine.
She is the author of various published articles, including “Cost and beliefs: Understanding individual and neighborhood level correlates of medication nonadherence among Mexican Americans with type 2 diabetes,” published in Health Psychology.
Her forthcoming article, “Spousal involvement in their partners’ diabetes management: Associations with spouse stress and perceived marital quality,” will be published in the Journal of Family Psychology.