A Tele-Behavioral Health Intervention to Reduce Depression, Anxiety, and Stress and Improve Diabetes Self-Management

Mochari-Greenberger Heidi, Vue Lee, Luka Andi, Peters Aimee, and Pande Reena L.. Telemedicine and e-Health. August 2016, 22(8): 624-630. doi:10.1089/tmj.2015.0231.

Background: Depression is prevalent among individuals with diabetes and associated with suboptimal self-management. Little is known about the feasibility and potential impact of tele-behavioral therapy to improve depressive symptoms and self-management among diabetes patients.

Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of consecutive graduates enrolled in a national 8-week diabetes behavioral telehealth program between August 1, 2014, and January 31, 2015 (N = 466; mean age 56.8 ± 5.0 years; 56% female). Participant characteristics (demographics, comorbidities) were obtained by standardized questionnaire. Depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms (DASS; validated Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale 21 survey), and glucose self-testing frequency and values (point-of-care monitor) were measured at program start and completion. Changes in DASS severity and glucose self-testing frequency were assessed by chi-square tests. Changes in DASS and blood glucose levels were evaluated by paired t-tests.

Results: At baseline, approximately one in three participants had elevated depression (32%), anxiety (33%), or stress (31%) scores. Significant reductions in average DASS, depression (−8.8), anxiety (−6.9), and stress (−9.9), scores were observed at graduation among those with elevated baseline scores (p < 0.0001); most (≥80%) improved to less severe depression, anxiety, or stress categories. Improved glucose self-testing frequency (69% vs. 60% tested ≥once per week; p = 0.0005) and significant reductions in mean morning glucose levels (−12.3 mg/dL; p = 0.0002) were observed from baseline to graduation. Participants with normal versus non-normal depression scores were more likely to have lower (<mean) glucose levels at graduation (odds ratio = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.1–3.7).

Conclusions: This study documented significant decreases in depression, anxiety, stress, and glucose levels, as well as increased frequency of glucose self-testing, among participants in a diabetes behavioral telehealth program.

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