UBC Faculty Research and Publications

‘I’m on the train and I can’t stop it’: Western Canadians’ reactions to prediabetes and the role of self-compassion Strachan, Shaelyn; Bean, Corliss; Jung, Mary E.


Prediabetes, a condition characterized by impaired glucose regulation, is on the rise worldwide. This condition puts people at risk for cardiovascular disease and 50% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes (T2D). People with prediabetes can reduce their risk of developing T2D through lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity and healthy eating. However, the experience of health risks can be associated with negative reactions that can undermine people’s ability to self-regulate the health behaviours that would reduce their health risk. Self-compassion, or treating oneself kindly in the face of challenge, is known to help people manage negative emotions and facilitate self-regulation. Therefore, self-compassion may be helpful for people with prediabetes who have to manage their health behaviours in the context of a health threat. The purpose of this study was to explore how people, from a small Canadian city who learn that they have prediabetes, react emotionally to their prediabetes diagnosis. We also explored participants’ receptivity to applying self-compassion in the context of their prediabetes. Twenty-one adults recently notified by their doctors as having HbA1c scores indicative of prediabetes (Mage=57.76, SD=5.43) engaged in a semi-structured interview between June 2017 and January 2018. Inductive thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Four themes emerged. Participants’ reactions to learning that they had prediabetes were characterized by (a) distress and concern, (b) downplay of T2D risks, (c) guilt and shame, and participants were receptive to (d) self-compassion as a beneficial approach to take in relation to their prediabetes. Findings suggest that people experience negative reactions to their prediabetes diagnosis yet are receptive to self-compassion, which could mitigate these reactions. These findings can inform lifestyle behaviour change programs for individuals living with prediabetes by providing a better understanding of the patients’ perspectives of disease diagnosis.

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