Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

43P Attitudes and Beliefs of Latino's with Diabetes: Deciphering the Lived Experience of Being Diagnosed

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Erika Ruiz, MSSW, Social Worker, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Regina T. P. Aguirre, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Purpose: Sixteen percent of the total U.S. population is composed of Latinos (U.S. Census, 2009), and it is estimated that by 2050, Latinos will compose 30 percent of the entire U.S. population (U.S. Census, 2010). The Centers for Disease Control (2010) estimate that approximately 18.1 million Americans suffer from diabetes, but Hispanics have a higher risk of developing this disease. According to the National Diabetes Education Program (2011), 11.8 percent of Latinos who are 20 years or older have been diagnosed with diabetes. The purpose of this study is to understand the lived experience of Latinos with diabetes to inform practice and research. Method: We conducted a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies using qualitative scholarly articles from psychology, nursing, social work, and medicine. Peer-reviewed studies were included that contained qualitative description of Latinos' experience with diabetes who were living in the US. Studies focusing on youth, Latinos living outside the US, groups in addition to Latinos, and studies utilizing mixed methods were excluded. The five studies combined yielded a sample of 153 Latinos currently living in Texas, New York, New England, California, and New York, whose ages ranged from 40 to 58. Results: Five themes were identified including: a) Bidirectional Relationship between Emotions and Diabetes; b) Religion as a Source of Strength; c) Perceptions of Depression; d) Perceptions of Depression Treatment; and e) Perceptions of Diabetes. Latino participants' descriptions of their depression resonate to the Spanish lexicon Sin Animos or Sin Ganas—not having the desire to conduct daily routines. When participants became severely depressed daily tasks became difficult to complete. Even those things that are intricate to the Latino value system, such as taking care of your loved ones became unimportant. Furthermore diabetes seems to be associated with a death sentence for some participants, because they have witnessed how debilitating the disease can be. Latinos often fear that taking multiple medications will do more harm than good, and others feel uneasy about becoming addicted to medication. Some are unaware that treatment for depression exists, while others believe that the only thing a depressed person needs when depressed is the support of their family members. Latinos' perceptions of diabetes can be seen as being in a continuum, which ranges from perceiving diabetes as the ultimate contributor to their death to it being compared to religious symbols, and others not placing much emphasis on the disease at all. Conclusions and Implications: The themes identified have implications for future practice and research. In terms of practice, Latinos would benefit from community psycho-education to improve health literacy about diabetes, the increased likelihood of depression with diabetes, and depression and diabetes treatment. There is a strong need for depression assessment among Latinos who have a high prevalence of diabetes. In the realm of research, spirituality is understudied and may be an effective avenue for helping Latinos cope with the burden of diabetes; scholars should consider further exploring the relationship between spirituality and the mental and physical wellbeing of Latinos.