This study examined whether type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients’ illness perception and diabetes knowledge can significantly predict diabetes self-care practices.
Patients with T2DM receiving health care at a public health facility in Accra, Ghana constituted the population for the study.
A self-care practice questionnaire was prepared which consisted of five domains of diabetes self-care practices: diet, exercise, blood sugar testing, foot care and medications.
A diabetes knowledge test was also used, consisting of 24 items. Each question had a correct response and two wrong responses.
A brief illness perception questionnaire with 9 items measured patients’ cognitive and emotional representations of their illness with regards to their perceptions of illness consequences, duration, personal control, treatment control, symptoms, coherence, concern, emotional response and causes.
Results from the analysis showed that illness perception significantly predicted overall self-care practices among persons living with type-2 diabetes.
That is, when patients hold more threatening views about their illness, they tend to engage in less diabetes self-care practices.
The impact of illness perception is not limited to the overall illness perceptions as other researchers have found specific domains such as timeline, controllability, severity and illness coherence to be predictive of diabetes self-care practices among a sample of diabetic patients in developed countries.
Further analysis of the predictive effects of illness perception on the domain specific diabetes self-care practices showed that illness perception only predicted diet and exercise practices among persons living with type-2 diabetes.
The findings from the current study have implications for the involvement of psychologists in the delivery of diabetes care as the cognitive and emotional representation of the illness by the patients could pose a great challenge to their engagement in diabetes self-care practices especially within the dietary and exercise domains.
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