A recent study suggests a link between having responsibility for care of a pet and development of habits that foster healthy blood sugar control for proper diabetes management
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that is required to break down glucose. Patients with this condition must constantly monitor and regulate their blood sugar level, and are at risk for a number of serious health problems if the condition is not well managed.
Roughly three quarters of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are younger than 18 years of age. This presents special challenges for management of the illness, since children and teens are likely to have less self-control and be less responsible about regulating blood sugar levels.
However, researchers have recently identified a possible association between pet ownership and the development of skills that can foster successful management of chronic health conditions.
A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School looked at 223 diabetic youths between the ages of 9 and 19 years. Researchers reviewed medical records showing how well each participant tended to control his or her blood sugar level, and collected information via questionnaire about whether the participant had a pet in the home, and the extent of his/her involvement in the pet’s care.
Analyses of the data suggested that children who actively care for one or more pets at home are 2.5 times more likely to have control over their blood sugar levels than children who do not care for a pet. Researchers theorize that there may be several explanations for this correlation, including:
- an enhanced feeling of responsibility through caring for a pet that translates to better self-care behaviors,
- an overall household routine that provides structure for habitual daily activities;
- an elevated mood resulting from interaction with a pet that other studies have shown may directly relate to control of blood sugar.
Conversely, researchers also recognize that the results may be explained by the fact that children who already possess a heightened sense of self (due to diabetes management) may apply the same level of responsibility to the care of their pet.
Written By: Linda Jensen