A team of researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, created a randomized controlled trial to find the impact and benefits of involving significant others in the treatment of type 2 diabetes patients.

The trial is based on the interdependence theory which suggests that couples who have supportive partners involved in their initiative to create healthier behaviors and seek treatment for a disease such as diabetes may be more successful in their program, according to MedPage Today.

Coined the “Diabetes Support Project," 300 individuals and their committed partners of a year or more participated in a 12-month treatment program administered by Syracuse’s research team. All couples and individuals received two calls about diabetes education. Two groups received 10 additional behavioral intervention calls centered around the social learning theory.

According to the trial, published in Diabetic Medicine, couples who go through diabetes intervention programs together show fewer signs of stress at the end of the 12-month trial. The emotional support that couples provided each other throughout the intervention was also shown to increase satisfaction in married relationships. There was even small improvement in diastolic blood pressure, especially in months four and eight of the trial.

Aside from social and emotional improvements, there were no concrete medical benefits to be found. There were no obvious signs of increased weight loss or shrinking of the disease symptoms. The team of researchers predicted that supportive spouses would make behavioral changes in their own lives and experience weight loss alongside their partner. This turned out not to be the case - there was no weight loss within any of the intervention groups.

Researchers think the lack of medical improvements in supportive partners may be due to the fact that both the study and the support of the partner was geared toward the person experiencing diabetes. To see improvements, researchers suspect that they would have to directly reach out to the partners separately and enforce an individualized program of behavioral change

Researchers concluded that involving romantic partners in type 2 diabetes treatment is a good thing. It showed benefits for the patient’s distress, depression and in marital satisfaction. It can be a great way for patients to receive support in their personal life. However, there are little medical benefits. The intimate relationship between two partners won’t suffer from exposing both parties to diabetes intervention; it may even improve.

The study was published to Diabetic Medicine and was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.