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UpWell Health Survey: 45% of Those With Diabetes Skip Care Due to Costs

Mary Caffrey
The survey found that the real cost of living with diabetes goes beyond what people spend out of pocket, and includes the toll the disease takes on relationships, work, and outside interests.
Living with diabetes is expensive, and a new survey about the real cost of managing the disease finds that 45% of those who have diabetes have gone without care at some point because of the cost.

The survey by UpWell Health, which helps ensure prescriptions and supplies for diabetes care arrive on schedule, found that the real price of living with the disease goes beyond what people pay out of pocket, although that is considerable. Diabetes consumes time each day for self-management, takes a toll on relationships at home and at work, cuts into sleep, and taxes mental health, the results show.

UpWell Health’s online survey found that 43% of people living with diabetes paid up to $1000 a year out of pocket to treat their disease, another 16% spent between $1000 and $5000, and 4% spent more than $5000. Of note, the American Diabetes Association recently reported that average annual costs for diabetes care have reached $7900 a year.

The toll that diabetes takes on mental health and relationships is considerable, fueled in part by the time that self-management takes each day. Many who live with the disease experience diabetes “burnout,” in which they simply ignore dietary restrictions or don’t follow self-care requirements as closely as they should—or at all.

Joslin Diabetes Center reports that diabetes burnout is not the same as depression, and it occurs, “when a person is either unwilling to change, or simply tired of the endless attention that diabetes care requires.” Separately, depression is a risk; the CDC reports that having diabetes can double a person’s risk of developing the condition.

Diabetes is a time-consuming disease: the survey found that 30% of respondents spend up to 2 extra hours per week shopping for and preparing special meals, while 14% spend 2 to 5 extra hours. The survey found 41% check blood sugar 1 to 2 times a day and 29% check it 3 to 5 times a day. Trips to the pharmacy are common: 91% go at least once a month and 28% go more than once.

As a result, 39% in the survey reported experiencing feelings of depression and 55% worried about the future. Work suffers, with 55% reporting they missed work in the past year due to diabetes; 39% missed 1 to 5 days but 2% said they missed more than 20 days. Among the respondents, 37% said diabetes has harmed their relationships with friends, loved ones, or coworkers; 46% said they have passed on activities or events in the past year due to their disease, and 38% said they have completely given up a hobby or interest because of diabetes.

Finally, the survey found that diabetes interferes with sleep, which can be precarious for people who risk having an episode of nocturnal hypoglycemia. Yet sleep is important for people with chronic conditions. The survey found that 62% of those responding felt diabetes interrupted their sleep regularly and 8% said it happened more than 10 times a week—meaning more than once a night on average.

UpWell Health’s “True Cost of Diabetes” survey was conducted online in 2017. Of 7240 responses to a Qualtrics questionnaire, data were cleansed to assure high-quality responses, resulting in 5255 usable responses.

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