Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, consistent links have been drawn between diabetes and Covid-19. Specifically, we are continually told that people with diabetes are at higher risk of serious implications or death from the virus and its associated disease.
This recent article in The Guardian stated that people with diabetes are more likely to die from Covid-19 complications.
Why I Hate This Article on Diabetes and Covid-19
I hate this article.
I mean I get it and why they published it, but there is still so much that needs to be studied in the context of diabetes and Covid-19.
Early studies in the pandemic are often limited in the data they can provide. For some articles, results are inconclusive. And, in many cases people will only read the headline and not a full article.
This particular article seems to ignore the fact that Type 2 Diabetes is quite a common condition in the older population who are vulnerable to Covid-19. This highlights the all too familiar discussion of correlation vs causation. Could it be possible that the data might be more characteristic of age than diabetes?
The NHS is a quality organization, so I am confident that they will continue to research the matter. But until those results are published, perhaps we should consider headlines in this context?
No Two People With Diabetes Are Alike
The article also doesn’t discuss the extent to which those who had diabetes had well-controlled diabetes. There is no mention of any other underlying conditions or comorbidities that may have presented a greater risk than diabetes.
Reporting early, raw data does not equate to detailed case studies. Close links between diabetes and COVID-19 deaths have yet to be proven. Making broad claims like “People with diabetes are more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without, according to NHS research confirming that diabetes significantly increases coronavirus sufferers’ risk of dying” may not only assume too much from limited data, but it is also frightening.
People With Diabetes Do Not Need More Fear
In a time rife with global panic, news headlines like these can be irresponsible. I am not calling out the NHS as being irresponsible. I am calling out news agencies that use fear to get attention – which is most of them.
Of course, people with diabetes should be cautious. They were already at an increased risk with regular flu and other viruses, too. Fear and anxiety existed before COVID-19.
But headlines like these are so fearful for such a large part of the population. When I first saw the study, I immediately thought of the parents in our support group with children who were newly diagnosed with Type1 Diabetes. They were already fearful enough.
Before I could comment on this headline, they were already reading it with so much anxiety. For any parent with a new diagnosis, or even a not so new diagnosis, it translates into “My child will die very soon”. For someone with diabetes it translates into “I will die from COVID-19”.
These headlines are adding to the looming mental health crisis that COVID-19 has brought upon us.
Keep Calm and Carry On, Warriors!
While this article, and other similar ones are frightening, please know that not every person with diabetes who gets this virus will necessarily become gravely ill. Data is one thing, but there is much research to be done before it can summarize an entire group of people who are all unique.
These titles are frightening. Of course I am worried about my son and the risks that he has. I also keep reminding myself that what the article doesn’t point out, and can’t, is that a peer-reviewed study is needed to make a stronger conclusion.
The article also does not point out suggestions for how people with diabetes can decrease their risk of getting COVID-19 in addition to those already highlighted by experts and authorities.
Stay Safe and Reach Out
Until more research is done, and diabetes experts have more information to share on this subject, I encourage you to continue to stay safe. Please follow the advice of your healthcare professionals, health ministries and other health authorities. Remain diligent. Keep calm and carry on.
Are headlines like this making you more fearful than usual? If so, please reach out and speak with someone. Most countries have set up services for mental health support. You do not have to do this alone.
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