Psychological insulin resistance: patient beliefs and implications for diabetes management

Qual Life Res. 2009 Feb;18(1):23-32. doi: 10.1007/s11136-008-9419-1. Epub 2008 Nov 28.


Purpose: To define and understand patient psychological insulin resistance (PIR) and its impact on diabetes management.

Methods: Systematic literature review of peer-refereed journals using the MEDLINE database, including all articles in English from 1985 to 2007. The population included patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, insulin naïve, and those currently using insulin. A total of 116 articles were reviewed.

Results: PIR is impacted by patients' beliefs and knowledge about diabetes and insulin, negative self-perceptions and attitudinal barriers, the fear of side effects and complications from insulin use, as well as lifestyle adaptations, restrictions required by insulin use, and social stigma. These etiological influences, both independently and in combination, constitute a patient's PIR and may result in the reluctance of patients to both initiate and intensify treatment, leading to delayed treatment initiation and compromised glucose control.

Conclusions: PIR is complex and multifaceted. It plays an important, although often ignored, role in diabetes management. Assisting health care professionals in better understanding PIR from the patient's perspective should result in improved treatment outcomes. By tailoring treatments to patients' PIR, clinicians may be better able to help their patients begin insulin treatment sooner and improve compliance, thus facilitating target glycemic control.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / psychology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Refusal / psychology*


  • Insulin