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Understanding and Challenging
Diabetes Stigma

Fierce and Sassy -
My Child With Type 1

Diabetes Stigma - Words That Stick

By Vanessa Haydock, The Diabetic Health Coach

Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional about your diabetes management. Individual symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary.

Approved on 10/03/2023

When we define stigma, it refers to “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something1. Having lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 28 years, I have experienced myself first hand (along with many others), the high level of diabetes stigma within our society, whether that be comments, beliefs, jokes or misconceptions, all of which can affect us far more deeply than what meets the eye. This goes for any type of diabetes, not just those of us living with Type 1.

Over the years, diabetes as a whole has been associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and something that is self-inflicted. This is an oversimplification, and the causes of diabetes are varied and complex. Unfortunately, due to the lack of education around diabetes, including the different types, the causes and complications, a high level of stigma has evolved and stereotypes created. For example, here are examples of what I have experienced:




1. Diabetes jokes – People making jokes about diabetes such as ‘That cake is diabetes on a plate’, or ‘Don’t eat that you will get diabetes’.

2. Questions – I have had people say to me ‘But you don’t look unhealthy or overweight’, once I have told them I have diabetes, due to the lack of education around what diabetes is and the different types.

3. Assumptions – I have experienced people saying ‘Should you eat that?’, assuming I can’t eat certain foods because I have diabetes.

4. Negative comments – I have experienced people rolling their eyes or commenting if I take my insulin in public, saying things like ‘Please could you go and do that in the toilet’.

5. Lack of understanding – I have experienced people taking my hypo treatments to eat, whilst not understanding that those sweets are what I use to keep my glucose levels in range if I drop low.  

Whilst the above may not be a big deal to some, for me, these comments that I have experienced over the years have stuck with me and have also influenced my confidence with my diabetes as a young girl growing up. Due to the high levels of diabetes stigma, I didn’t want to admit to others that I had diabetes, with the fear of what others would think.

This then led me to participate in behaviours that were not healthy for my diabetes management, such as eating sweets or full sugar drinks in front of friends to show I COULD do what everyone else could do. I also started to hide if I was administering my insulin, or checking my glucose levels, something that was incredibly important for me to be open about.

Not only that, but the comments about diabetes in general can make us feel isolated, no matter what type of diabetes we have. At the end of the day, diabetes is a serious condition and needs to be understood better.

However, it is now coming to the surface just how common diabetes stigma is and the impact it can have on those of us living with diabetes. A recent survey showed that 24% of us find that it negatively impacts our ability to manage our condition2. In fact, according to the research, 1 in 4 people with diabetes have directly experienced a negative comment about their condition, as well as at least 73% of people having seen some form of negative commentary in the media (53% on Facebook alone!).

This is why I'm proud to have worked with Abbott on their stigma campaign, ‘Let's Change Perspective’, aiming to educate people about what diabetes is and to reduce stigma. Hopefully in time, more and more people will better understand what diabetes is, the different types and reasons for it, as well as understanding how to speak to others about the condition.

So, if this is something that you have experienced or feel strongly about, join the conversation using the hashtag #letschangeperspective.

Vanessa Haydock is a FreeStyle Libre Ambassador. Views are her own. You can find out more about Vanessa’s experience of diabetes stigma here.

For more information about Abbott’s stigma campaign,

Understanding and Challenging
Diabetes Stigma

Fierce and Sassy -
My Child With Type 1

References and Disclaimers


2.     Data on file, 2022. Abbott. Survey among 1,500 participants.