project Lifestyle tool diabetes

A Lifestyle Tool for Health Behaviours in Type 2 Diabetes [Seed Funding]

Dr. Soedamah-Muthu and Dr. Mark aim to establish which factors are required to develop a lifestyle tool based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy principles. The ultimate goal is to sustain healthy behaviours in people with Type 2 diabetes over the long-term at the individual level.

Type 2 diabetes has a major impact on public health and is a worldwide pandemic with predictions of up to 700 million individuals diagnosed by 2045 (2019: 463 million). Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle-diet related disease and the time to guide people on how to manage it properly is long overdue. People with Type 2 diabetes (compared to those without) have more metabolic problems, greater use of medication, a higher prevalence of comorbidities, and a lower quality of life. These factors may potentially affect an individual’s ability to live healthily and to make the right lifestyle choices. This inability to stick to lifestyle intervention programs may be due to a number of factors including: support termination, lack of determination, resilience, coping skills and personalization. In a previous study we interviewed people with Type 2 diabetes and they all stated that major turning points in their lives (e.g. physical illness, psychological trauma, job loss) were key to what prevented them from living healthily. Psychological interventions are therefore crucial and badly needed in order to support people with Type 2 diabetes in their efforts to live healthily, especially over the long-term.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that was found to be effective in maintaining weight loss, a key determinant in Type 2 diabetes. Lifelong healthy living with CBT has never been investigated in Type 2 diabetes. CBT aims to change dysfunctional thoughts about self-image and behaviour into more realistic, helpful ones, and this in turn can facilitate long-term behavioural change. Therefore, the current project aims to establish which factors are needed to develop a lifestyle tool based on CBT principles that is focused on sustaining healthy behaviours over the long-term at the individual level.

The first step in this project is to set up a nation-wide prospective cohort study in Type 2 diabetes patients at Tilburg University using online data collection via questionnaires. For this part, we will seek further funding also to include repeated measures over a longer follow-up time.  The questionnaires will assess a wide range of psychological, motivational, habit and craving-related behaviours which may be barriers and/or facilitators for people with Type 2 diabetes to use CBT and which could be the keys to healthy lifestyle behaviours. The second step in this study is to interview Type 2 diabetes patients with more detailed questions. These interviews will be recorded and used to investigate users’ needs. These will be implemented into the CBT tool (mobile phone/web-based) we plan to develop in a follow-up study for which we will seek funding.

Dr. Soedamah-Muthu is an expert in clinical and nutritional epidemiology research. She has a large (inter)national network and a proven track record in diabetes research and methodological and statistical expertise.

Dr. Ruth Mark’s research expertise is in the field of clinical neuropsychology. She is currently designing an online digital platform to make Personalized Cognitive Diagnostics possible. This will be a great asset in designing and evaluating a CBT lifestyle tool for people with T2D.


[Project duration: 2020 - 2021]

Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.