Type 2 diabetes is very prevalent in the Gulf region, particularly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which has the second highest prevalence in the world. Factors contributing to this include changes in diet, adoption of sedentary lifestyles, and the consequent increase in rates of obesity. These changes are primarily due to rapid economic development and affluence. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of psychological distress and its correlates in diabetic patients in the United Arab Emirates.
Patients diagnosed with diabetes attending diabetes mini-clinics in the primary health care centres or hospitals of Sharjah were invited to participate in this cross-sectional study. Patients were interviewed using structured questionnaires to gather data on socio-demographics, lifestyle factors, diabetes complications, and medication usage. The K6 was administered as a screening tool for mental health concerns.
Three hundred and forty-seven participants completed the interview. The majority of participants were females (65.4%) and the mean age was 53.2 (sd=14.6). Approximately 12.5% of patients obtained a score of 19 or above (cut-off score) on the K6, indicating possible mental health concerns. Twenty-four percent had diabetes complications, mainly in the form of retinopathy, peripheral vascular disease and peripheral neuropathy. A significant relationship was found between scores on the K6, these complications of diabetes and the use of oral hypoglycemic and lipid lowering therapies.
The results of this study demonstrate a strong correlation between mental health status and diabetic complications. In particular, patients who are depressed tended to have poorer self-care, more severe physical symptoms and were less likely to adhere to prescribed care regimens. These findings raise the possibility that improving the mental health as part of a comprehensive management plan for diabetes may improve the overall long term outcomes of these patients.