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How Fear Impacts the Quality of Life of Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes

How Fear Impacts the Quality of Life of Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes

A study in the December 2018 issue of The Diabetes Educator showed that young adults 18-35 years of age expressed fear of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and diabetes-related complications and a high dissatisfaction with the burden that diabetes places on their families and the amount of time it takes to manage the disease. Participants reported low quality of life in association with these factors, despite knowing how to manage their disease and being relatively good at it, things usually associated with higher quality of life.

“For healthcare professionals, care of young adults with Type 1 diabetes should include minimizing their worries about diabetes,” said study co-author Denise A. Kent Ph.D., RN, APRN, a faculty member in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing.

“The goal of diabetes management is not only to maintain a normal blood sugar level but also to achieve a high quality of life. By including a discussion that addresses the mental health of people with diabetes, we can help them work through potential fears of low blood sugar, diabetes complications, and feelings of being able to manage their diabetes.”

Findings from this study offer support for what intuitively makes sense and is seen in practice: that fear related to diabetes and the burdens of managing diabetes can lead to lower quality of life for many youths with Type 1 diabetes. In this study of 180 young adults 18-35 years of age:

  • 60% reported, "I feel afraid of long-term complications.”

  • 73% reported, "I am scared DM will affect my feet.”

  • 50% worry all the time "I will be denied insurance."

  • More than 50% reported, "I am very dissatisfied with the burden DM places on my family."

  • 36% worry all the time about having children.

  • 30% worry they will not get the job they want.

  • 42% worry very often about having a low blood sugar crisis when they sleep.

“Young adults are engaging in developmental tasks and new relationships,” said study co-author Laurie Quinn, Ph.D., RN, CDE, FAHA, FAAN, a clinical professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, UIC College of Nursing. “Minimizing their worries about diabetes will help them focus on the important new roles they are taking on personally and societally. It may also help people with diabetes have and maintain better quality of life in later stages of life.”

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