The Importance of Sensitive Language

The Importance of Appropriate Language with Patients and Diabetes

Adults living with diabetes have reported that they experience judgement and blame through the language used by healthcare professionals, family, friends and the general public71. The use of certain words or phrases when speaking with or about people living with diabetes can intentionally or unintentionally express bias, thereby contributing to an already stressful experience of living with this disease 72.

The stigma related to diabetes has been associated with increased blood glucose variability, feelings of guilt, shame and isolation, in addition to having detrimental consequences on social life.

Therefore, when communicating with or about people living with diabetes, it is important to use language that maintains their integrity. Language implying that a person is disabled (e.g., diabetic child) or equates a person with his or her condition (e.g., diabetic) should be avoided. Language hinting negative overtones (e.g., unmotivated, suffering with/from diabetes) or that may be considered judgmental (e.g., noncompliant, nonadherent, poorly controlled) should also be avoided 72.

It is vital to use language that is neutral, non-judgmental and empowering. We have a responsibility to use language which is respectful, inclusive, based on facts and free of all stigma 72.

Words have the power to ‘elevate or destroy’. Using empowering language has been proven to improve communication and enhance the motivation, health and wellbeing of people with diabetes 72.

Therefore, all health care professionals, researchers, writers, and society should implement empowering language when communicating with or about people living with diabetes.

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