Aims: To attempt to fill a gap in the literature on diabetic versus healthy older women on desire to improve one’s health, health screening behaviors, and cognitive health.
Study Design: Between-subjects design.
Place and Duration of Study: Department of Psychology, California State University Northridge, between July 2013 and June 2015.
Methodology: In this preliminary study, we compared 30 diabetic older women to 42 healthy older women (i.e., respondents who reported having no physical illnesses and not taking any medications) on: desire to improve their health (hypothesized as being higher in the diabetes group), receiving mammograms and regular health screenings (analyzed without any hypotheses, due to the lack of evidence on this topic), as well as cognitive functioning (hypothesized as lower in the diabetes group, based on prior research findings). Participants (N=72, mean age=69.29, SD=6.579, age range=50-90) were multiethnic, non-institutionalized women over the age of 50 residing in Los Angeles County who completed our research packet. The latter contained the first author’s demographics list and her original structured interview protocol on older women’s health, as well as the well-known Mini-Cog.
Results: The results of an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) showed that, as hypothesized, diabetic women desired to improve their health more than the women in the control group [F (1,70)=11.87, p<.05, η2=.15]. Additionally, upon implementing Chi-square analyses, we discovered that diabetic respondents were significantly more likely to receive mammograms [X2(1)=5.87, p<.05] and general health screenings [X2(1)=4.51, p<.05] than healthy women. Moreover, in contrast with prior literature’s findings, cognitive health in the diabetic group obtained marginal significance in an ANOVA as being better than the cognitive health of the control group [F(1,68)=3.30, p=.06, η2=.05].
Conclusion: We have established a significant relationship between diabetes and a) desire to improve one’s health and b) health screening behaviors, as well as c) cognitive impairment (at a marginally significant level) among diabetic versus healthy women. This has important clinical and public health implications. Although the findings of prior research suggest that diabetic older women often experience impaired cognitive performance compared to healthy older women, our marginally significant results showed that the opposite is true, at least in our ethnically diverse sample of modest size. Moreover, we found that diabetic older women desired to improve their health significantly more than healthy women and pursued cancer screenings and general health screenings more than their healthy counterpart. The limited size of our sample does not allow for generalizations of our findings. Additional research with larger samples is definitely needed to investigate these topics further.