Being overly cautious or dismissive in relating to people could shorten the lives of people with diabetes, new research has indicated.
The five-year study showed that diabetes patients who have a lower propensity to reach out to others have a higher mortality rate than those who feel comfortable seeking support.
Dr. Paul Ciechanowski, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Washington (UW) and colleagues examined 3,535 adult patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes enrolled as Group Health Cooperative patients in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.
Since depression has been linked to premature death from diabetes, patients with depression were not included to avoid confounding the study results. The patients completed a relationship questionnaire, developed in 1994 by Griffin and Bartholomew.
Based on the results of this survey, patients were divided into two groups: those with an interactive style and those with an independent style in relating to people.
Individuals with an interactive style find it easy to get close to others and rely on them, and in turn are dependable for others. Those with an independent style tend to be either dismissive or fearful of close relationships.
Some people with this style would like emotional closeness, but find it hard to trust or depend on others. Others can be indifferent to close relationships, preferring instead to be free and self-reliant.
"These ways of relating often extend to their relationships with health-care providers," the researchers said.
During the course of the study, the researchers found that diabetes patients who were mistrustful of people, including health-care providers, had a 33 percent higher mortality rate than those who interacted easily with others and sought comfort and support.
The authors found the significantly higher risk of death among diabetes patients who were less likely to seek support still held after controlling for other potential risk factors for mortality such as age, marital status, other medical conditions, complications of diabetes and body mass index.
The exact mechanisms behind the link between an independent relationship style and a higher mortality rate are not yet known and further research is needed to delineate the reasons and to develop effective interventions, the researchers said.
The report was published in this month's Diabetes Care, a professional journal of the American Diabetes Association.