Kindness Matters: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindful Self-Compassion Intervention Improves Depression, Distress, and HbA1c Among Patients With Diabetes

Diabetes Care. 2016 Nov;39(11):1963-1971. doi: 10.2337/dc16-0416. Epub 2016 Jun 22.


Objective: Mood difficulties are common among patients with diabetes and are linked to poor blood glucose control and increased complications. Evidence on psychological treatments that improve both mood and metabolic outcomes is limited. Greater self-compassion predicts better mental and physical health in both healthy and chronically ill populations. Thus, the purpose of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to evaluate the effects of self-compassion training on mood and metabolic outcomes among patients with diabetes.

Research design and methods: This RCT tested the effects of a standardized 8-week mindful self-compassion (MSC) program (n = 32) relative to a wait-list control condition (n = 31) among patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Measures of self-compassion, depressive symptoms, diabetes-specific distress, and HbA1c were taken at baseline (preintervention), at week 8 (postintervention), and at 3-month follow-up.

Results: Repeated-measures ANOVA using intention to treat showed that MSC training increased self-compassion and produced statistically and clinically significant reductions in depression and diabetes distress in the intervention group, with results maintained at 3-month follow-up. MSC participants also averaged a clinically and statistically meaningful decrease in HbA1c between baseline and follow-up of >10 mmol/mol (nearly 1%). There were no overall changes for the wait-list control group.

Conclusions: This initial report suggests that learning to be kinder to oneself (rather than being harshly self-critical) may have both emotional and metabolic benefits among patients with diabetes.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depression / blood
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / psychology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12615000946516