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Relationships between the Psychological and Social Aspects of Diabetes Patients and Their Health Condition in Japan and the U.S.
(Modern Life Ways Research Domain)

Project Leader
Yukiko Uchida, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Collaborative Research Affiliates
Shimpei Fujimoto, MD, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University (Diabetes, Clinical Nutrition)
Beth Morling, Ph.D. (Psychology), Associate Professor, University of Delaware, (Cultural Psychology)

Collaborative Project Researchers
Kaori Ikeda, Doctoral Student, Kyoto University (Clinical Research on Diabetes and Nutrition)
Shiho Takahara, Doctoral Student, Kyoto University (Clinical Research on Diabetes and Nutrition)

The success or failure of nutritional guidance provided to diabetes patients has a major impact on treatment outcomes. Current guidelines, however, contain little information on guidance methods, so guidance is often provided on the basis of physician experience. In the United States, 90% of certified diabetes educators provide guidance using empowerment theory. Empowerment is a method of helping patients to determine and change their own behavior; this theory and the concept of changing behavior through motivation are well known in Japan. When developing methods of guidance for Japanese patients, it is necessary to determine if the same methods used in the United States will be effective in Japan.

According to cultural psychology, factors that control individual behavior, such as identity, motivation, and self-concept, cannot be separated from social practices and systems or from interpersonal relationships with families and coworkers. A number of studies showed that Japanese cultural contexts construe the individual’s experience in terms of relationships with others. Research on the coping methods of pregnant women, for example, indicates that unlike Westerners who emphasize improving and taking personal responsibility for outcomes, Japanese emphasize support from people in their surroundings. Therefore, effective treatment for Japanese patients might not only raise the awareness of the patient, but also consider relationships with others.

The purpose of this research is to assess the social psychological aspects of diabetes patients and their nutritional patterns, comparing Japanese and American diabetes patients. We are measuring the values, mind-sets, support received from others, and nutritional status of diabetes patients in Japan and the United States and examining the interrelationships among these variables. The data will be able to help practitioners provide better nutritional guidance and maintenance of quality of life for diabetes patients in Japan.