Why is the Language We Use Around Diabetes So Important?

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Blog

Language can have a strong impact on behaviour and perceptions. The language we use to describe various health conditions is important since words can positively or negatively frame how we think and feel about things. There are a few simple ways we can shift our language around diabetes to ensure that it is neutral, respectful, free from stigma, inclusive, and strengths-based.


Person with Diabetes instead of Diabetic Person

As with any health condition, it is important to use person-centered or person-first language. This means focusing on the person first, and not using their health condition or illness to label them. An example of this would be to avoid saying “diabetic person” and instead say, “person living with diabetes.” 


Diabetes Management instead of Diabetes Control

Perfectly controlling anything is usually impossible. By speaking about managing diabetes versus trying to control it, we can shift the focus to self care and away from perfectionism. Avoiding language such as “uncontrolled,” “noncompliant,” and “nonadherent” can also reduce some of the negative stigma associated with diabetes.


High, Low & In Range Blood Sugar instead of Good & Bad Blood Sugar

Having good or bad blood sugar levels does not mean you are good or bad. This may seem obvious, but we often talk about diabetes in this way and tie words such as good or bad to measurements and results. If you are feeling constantly negative about yourself when you get a “bad” reading, it may be time to shift your language to high, low or in range. This language shift is especially important for younger individuals who are living with diabetes as they may be less able to distinguish between “your blood sugar levels are bad” and “you are bad.”


Check Blood Sugar instead of Test Blood Sugar 

This may seem trivial, however the word “test” can be pretty loaded. This implies you are dealing with a pass or fail situation, or there is a right or wrong outcome. Doing multiple blood sugar tests per day can create some pressure when the outcome is not what you are expecting. Simply changing the word to “check” offers a more neutral word, and may alleviate some of that pressure.


While some of these language shifts may not seem like a big deal to you, they could be really important to others who are living with diabetes. So, whether you have diabetes, care for someone with diabetes, or neither, don’t forget about the power of language and consider making these small shifts!


Learn more about “Speaking the Language of Diabetes” here.


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Dickinson, J. K., Guzman, S. J., Maryniuk, M. D., O’Brian, C. A., Kadohiro, J. K., Jackson, R. A., D’Hondt, N., Montgomery, B., Close, K. L., & Funnell, M. M. (2017). The Use of Language in Diabetes Care and Education. Diabetes Care, 40(12), 1790–1799. https://doi.org/10.2337/dci17-0041


Why Diabetes Language is Important. (n.d.). Lauren Newman. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.laurennewmanrd.com/blog1/2019/4/8/why-the-language-we-use-around-diabetes-is-important

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