Challenging Stereotypes

Diabetes affects 1 in 4 adults in Australia. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85-90 per cent of our diabetes population while type 1 accounts for 10-15 per cent. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about diabetes and its management and this can lead to stereotypes and stigmas that affect many people negatively, particularly those living with type 2 diabetes. There are quite a number of people who feel that society blames them for their condition.

A common stereotype or misconception is that people with diabetes are overweight and that having diabetes is their own fault. This could not be further from the truth. There are many factors that need to be considered when someone is diagnosed with diabetes. There are both thin people who have developed type 2 diabetes and obese people who don’t have diabetes.

We need to look at someone’s risk factors on an individual basis. Is there a family history of diabetes in your family? Have you had gestational diabetes? How old are you? Are you Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander, or from an ethnic background where there is a high incidence of diabetes?

If you have a family history of diabetes or an ethnic background where diabetes is prevalent there is nothing we can do to change that – you can’t change your genes and while lifestyle and body weight do play a part in the development of type 2 diabetes, there is no point victim blaming once someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Let’s face it, no one would deliberately choose a lifetime of tablets, injections, finger pricks, rounds of doctor’s appointments and everything else that goes with looking after diabetes.

Those with type 1 diabetes aren’t safe from being stereotyped either. A common misconception is that their parents fed them too much sugar. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition with no known prevention or cure. Someone can develop type 1 diabetes at any age and it’s not dependent on lifestyle or diet.

We need to educate those who don’t understand diabetes and who stereotype, so that there is no shame in having a diagnosis of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.