Occupational Therapy May Benefit Young Adults With Diabetes

a couple sitting at therapy
a couple sitting at therapy
Young adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes saw improvements in HbA1c and psychosocial well-being after occupational therapy.

An occupational therapy intervention improved blood glucose control and diabetes-related quality of life (QOL) among young adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and low socioeconomic status, according to recent research published in Diabetes Care.

Elizabeth A. Pyatak, from the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and colleagues recruited 81 young adults of low socioeconomic status with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to assess the efficacy of an occupational therapy intervention on blood glucose control and psychosocial well-being.

The participants were randomly assigned to either the Resilient, Empowered, Active Living with Diabetes (REAL) intervention (n=41) or an attention control group (n=40).

Participants in the REAL group received 7 content modules on the basis of their individual intervention goals, which were administered by 2 licensed occupational therapists with training in motivational interviewing. The intervention took place over the course of 6 months, and therapists provided a minimum of 10 hours of treatment.

Participants in the control group received 1 home visit by a trained staff member and were given standard educational materials. The home visit was followed up with biweekly telephone calls about the materials.

Related Articles

HbA1c outcomes significantly improved in the REAL group compared with control group participants (−0.57%/6.2 mmol/mol vs +0.36%/3.9 mmol/mol; P =.01). There was also an improvement in diabetes-related QoL among REAL participants, measured by the Audit of Diabetes-Dependent QOL questionnaire (+0.7 vs +0.15; P =.04). The REAL group participants also strengthened their habit of self-monitoring blood glucose, measured by the Self-Report Behavioral Automaticity Index (+3.9 vs +1.7; P =.05).

One limitation of the study is that long-term benefits of the intervention were not measured.

“[Occupational therapies] may merit consideration as an untapped resource to address the growing burden of diabetes in the US,” concluded the researchers.


Pyatak EA, Carandang K, Vigen CLP, et al. Occupational therapy intervention improves glycemic control and quality of life among young adults with diabetes: the Resilient, Empowered, Active Living with Diabetes (REAL Diabetes) randomized controlled trial [published online January 19, 2018]. Diabetes Care. doi: 10.2337/dc17-1634