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Barriers to effective diabetes management – a survey of people with severe mental illness

Mulligan, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-6003-3029, McBain, H. B. ORCID: 0000-0002-6742-1104, Lamontagne-Godwin, F. , Chapman, J., Flood, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-5170-7792, Haddad, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-4822-5482, Jones, J. & Simpson, A. (2018). Barriers to effective diabetes management – a survey of people with severe mental illness. BMC Psychiatry, 18, 165. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1744-5


Background: People with severe mental illnesses (SMI) such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and have poorer health outcomes than those with diabetes alone. To maintain good diabetes control, people with diabetes are advised to engage in several self-management behaviours. The aim of this study was to identify barriers or enablers of diabetes self-management experienced by people with SMI.

Methods: Adults with type 2 diabetes and SMI were recruited through UK National Health Service organisations and mental health and diabetes charities. Participants completed an anonymous survey consisting of: Summary of Diabetes Self-Care Activities (SDSCA); CORE-10 measure of psychological distress; a measure of barriers and enablers of diabetes self-management based on the Theoretical Domains Framework; Diabetes UK care survey on receipt of 14 essential aspects of diabetes healthcare. To identify the strongest explanatory variables of SDSCA outcomes, significant variables (p < .05) identified from univariate analyses were entered into multiple regressions.

Results: Most of the seventy-seven participants had bipolar disorder (42%) or schizophrenia (36%). They received a mean of 7.6 (SD 3.0) diabetes healthcare essentials. Only 28.6% had developed a diabetes care plan with their health professional and only 40% reported receiving specialist psychological support. Engagement in self-management activities was variable. Participants reported taking medication on 6.1 (SD 2.0) days in the previous week but other behaviours were less frequent: general diet 4.1 (2.3) days; specific diet 3.6 (1.8) days, taking exercise 2.4 (2.1) days and checking feet on 1.7 (1.8) days. Smoking prevalence was 44%. Participants reported finding regular exercise and following a healthy diet particularly difficult. Factors associated with diabetes self22 management included: the level of diabetes healthcare and support received; emotional wellbeing; priority given to diabetes; perceived ability to manage diabetes or establish a routine to do so; and perceived consequences of diabetes self-management.

Conclusions: Several aspects of diabetes healthcare and self-management are suboptimal in people with SMI. There is a need to improve diabetes self-management support for this population by integrating diabetes action plans into care planning and providing adequate psychological support to help people with SMI manage their diabetes.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( ) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Publisher Keywords: Diabetes, severe mental illness, service users, self-management, Theoretical Domains Framework
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
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