Writing for Health: Rationale and Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial of Internet-Based Benefit-Finding Writing for Adults With Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes.

JMIR Res Protoc. 2017 Mar 14;6(3):e42. doi: 10.2196/resprot.7151.

Crawford J1,2, Wilhelm K1,2,3, Robins L1,3, Proudfoot J2,4.

Diabetes mellitus is Australia’s fastest growing chronic disease, and has high comorbidity with depression. Both subthreshold depression and diabetes distress are common amongst people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and are associated with poorer diabetes self-care. A need exists for low-intensity self-help interventions for large numbers of people with diabetes and diabetes distress or subthreshold depression, as part of a stepped-care approach to meeting the psychological needs of people with diabetes. Benefit-finding writing is a very brief intervention that involves writing about any positive thoughts and feelings about a stressful experience, such as an illness. Benefit-finding writing has been associated with increases in positive affect and positive growth, and has demonstrated promising results in trials amongst other clinical populations. However, benefit-finding writing has not yet been examined in people with diabetes.

OBJECTIVE:

The aim of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) is to evaluate the efficacy of an Internet-based benefit-finding writing (iBFW) intervention for adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes (compared to a control writing condition) for reducing diabetes distress and increasing benefit-finding in diabetes, and also improving a range of secondary outcomes.

METHODS:

A two-arm RCT will be conducted, using the online program Writing for Health. Adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes living in Australia will be recruited using diabetes-related publications and websites, and through advertisements in diabetes services and general practitioners’ offices. Potential participants will be referred to the study-specific website for participant information and screening. All data will be collected online. Participants will be randomized to either iBFW about diabetes, or a control writing condition of writing about use-of-time. Both conditions involve three daily sessions (once per day for three consecutive days) of 15-minute online writing exercises. Outcome measures will be administered online at baseline, one-month, and three-month follow-ups.

RESULTS:

This trial is currently underway. The primary outcomes will be diabetes distress and benefit-finding in diabetes. Secondary outcomes will be depression, anxiety, diabetes self-care, perceived health, and health care utilization. We aim to recruit 104 participants. All stages of the study will be conducted online using the Writing for Health program. Group differences will be analyzed on an intention-to-treat basis using mixed models repeated measures. Linguistic analyses of the writing exercise scripts, and examinations of the immediate emotional responses to the writing exercises, will also be undertaken.

CONCLUSIONS:

This RCT will be the first study to examine iBFW for adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If iBFW is found to be efficacious in reducing diabetes distress and improving diabetes self-care and other outcomes, iBFW may offer the potential to be a low-cost, easily accessible self-help intervention to improve the wellbeing of adults with diabetes.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12615000241538).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28292741

 

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