Type A Personalities and Type 1 Diabetes: The Unexpected Benefits

People with Type A personalities tend to be competitive, assertive, and sometimes impatient perfectionists. Highly focused and bent on success, they often approach life with a sense of urgency. And, intriguingly, when they have type I diabetes, Type As also have lower mortality rates than others with the condition, even after adjusting for factors like age, smoking status, and educational level, according to a study in Diabetes Care.

A Surprising Finding

The finding seems counter-intuitive: Why would individuals with personality traits linked with higher levels of stress—not a characteristic associated with long-term health—have lower diabetes-related mortality rates? As it turns out, "These people, who are compulsive, manage their disease much better," explains Joel Zonszein, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "They may just be much more proactive than other people, who (may) lay back and forget to check their blood sugar or eat something they should not have."

Robert M. Cohen, MD, agrees, noting that the study suggests that people who are careful and detail-oriented, as many Type A people are, handle their diabetes more successfully than others. "You have to be smart to take care of yourself with diabetes," says Cohen, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati. "You need to keep at it constantly." And that's exactly what people with Type A personalities appear to do.

A Warning for Type A—and Other—Diabetes Patients

In general, Zonszein notes, Type As with type 1 diabetes do very well—unless they get depressed. When any individual with type 1 diabetes becomes depressed, it's important to address the depression while or before developing a better blood sugar control treatment plan, Zonszein says. "Depression is common in people with diabetes," he says. "While they are often treated with an antidepressant, it is also important for them to get support by talking to a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist."

Joel Zonszein, MD, reviewed this article.



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