You’re likely familiar with some of the negative language and messages surrounding diabetes. Diabetes comes with many stigmas. But it shouldn’t be that way.
Words are powerful. And they can positively or negatively impact how people feel or think. So, it’s important that we start shifting the language used when talking about diabetes. Let’s make it inclusive, respectful, and free from stigma.
Using The Right Language
Language matters. The words you choose have the potential to persuade and influence others. With words, it’s possible to express bias — whether conscious or unconscious. And the way you use words can be the difference between making people feel valued or excluded.
The way we communicate about diabetes has consequences. And there’s plenty of evidence that shows that common language used to talk about diabetes is often problematic.
- The media uses stigmatizing language.[i]
- It’s often intimidating, confusing, inaccurate, harmful, and frustrating.[ii]
- At diagnosis, language has a significant and lasting impact on the person being diagnosed.[iii]
- Language affects the emotional well-being of people.[iv]
- Diabetes language has been found to affect blood sugar levels.[v]
- Incorrect language used may isolate or alienate people.[vi]
Tips About Talking
Some tips to keep in mind when talking about diabetes include:
- Language has significant power and can have either positive or negative effects. Use it wisely.
- Use language free from negative connotations and judgment.
- Keep language person-focused and avoid labels.
- Recognize that there are descriptions, phrases, and words that may be problematic — no matter the intent.
- Avoid words that generalize or stereotype.
- Avoid language that blames someone for their diabetes.
Changing the Way We Talk
No matter who you are, it’s important that we all learn to change the way we talk about diabetes.
Here are some ways to get started.
Instead of: Diabetic vs. non-diabetic
Use: Person with diabetes / Person living with diabetes
Why? Language should be person-first. People don’t want to be defined by their diabetes.
Instead of: Controlling diabetes
Use: Managing diabetes
Why? The idea of control makes it seem like diabetes is a choice — putting blame and shame on a person.
Instead of: Good vs. bad blood sugar
Use: In range, low, and high blood sugar
Why? Labeling blood sugar levels as good or bad can lead to guilt. Some people may feel like having a “bad” blood sugar means they’re a bad person.
Instead of: Testing blood sugar
Use: Checking blood sugar
Why? We are not in school. Testing implies passing or failing results. Blood sugar values are not good or bad. They’re simply information.
Of course, these are only a few examples of how we can change language surrounding diabetes. Remember: use language that’s empathetic, encouraging, understanding, and respectful.
The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.