Having a friendly doctor could halve the risk of a diabetic dying within the next 10 years, research suggests. Patients who feel their GP is empathetic may be more inclined to take their doctors’ advice and adhere to their medication, researchers at Cambridge University claim.
Empathy is said to lead to a trusting relationship where patients can talk openly about any problems that need to be addressed. Study author and GP Dr Hajira Dambha-Miller said: ‘Our findings suggest that these more human elements of healthcare early in the course of diabetes, may be important in their long-term health outcomes.
‘The potential impact is considerable and is comparable to prescribing medicines but without the associated problems of side effects or non-adherence.’ Type 2 diabetes affects around four million people in the UK.
It significantly raises a patient’s risk of death from heart disease or stroke due to the strain high blood glucose levels put on arteries. However, these complications can be avoided with proper disease control. The researchers analysed the health outcomes of 628 individuals across 49 general practices in the UK.
Patients completed a questionnaire that assessed their GP’s empathy, as well as their ‘experiences’ of diabetes, a year after being diagnosed. Scores were divided into three groups that assessed GP and nurse empathy relative to a patient developing cardiovascular disease or dying over a 10-year follow-up.
Just under one in five (19 per cent) of the patients went on to experience a cardiovascular disease event. And a similar number (21 per cent) died from causes such as cancer or heart attacks. Those that experienced better empathy tended to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease events, however, this was not statistically significant.
Those who reported having an empathetic doctor had a 40-to-50 per cent lower risk of death over the next decade compared to those who had a less friendly medic.