Posted Sep 20 , 2018 03:39 AM

Positive Health Benefits of Peer Support and Connections for College Students with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Saylor J. et al. Diabetes Educator 2018;44(4): 340-347

What were the findings (excerpted from the Abstract)?

The purpose of this study is to examine the characteristics and health outcomes of college students with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) as it relates to membership in a local university-based diabetes student organization. This descriptive, correlational research design is a secondary analysis of data. The sample consisted of nationally representative young adults in college (n = 317) between 18 and 30 years of age who were diagnosed with T1DM. Data were collected during April 2017 using a secure electronic diabetes management survey to inquire about self-reported barriers to diabetes management, hypoglycemia, and diabetic ketoacidosis of members of a diabetes organization. Students were evenly distributed from freshman to senior year of college with a slight decrease at the graduate level. A purposeful sample of College Diabetes Network (CDN) student members were contacted using the standard methods of communication between CDN and its membership. There are 2 distinct levels of CDN memberships for students with diabetes: general and affiliated. To become a CDN general member, students must register online with CDN and voluntarily provide basic demographic, school, diabetes-related, and general health information. Affiliated CDN members have all the benefits of the general membership but also actively participate in a student-led affiliated CDN chapters on their college campus, where they hold regular meetings and events. Participants involved with affiliated CDN chapters were significantly less likely to report increased levels of isolation, depressive symptoms, and anxiety, related to their T1DM since joining an affiliated CDN chapter. Participants involved with affiliated CDN chapters also report decreased frequency of low blood glucose events while in college and decreased A1C, since joining affiliated CDN chapters. Participants involved in affiliated CDN chapters were also significantly more likely to report having registered for accommodations in college.

Why is this important?

The term ‘peer pressure’ is often thought of having a negative connotation. However positive results from peer associations are clear from this article. The T1D Exchange, funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, has identified college years as a problematic time for individuals with type 1 diabetes, with evidence of poor diabetes control during those years. ( Participation in a university-based diabetes student organization on campus and connecting with other college students with diabetes may have significant health benefits. This study underscores the potential importance of peer-led, diabetes-specific support for adolescents emerging into adulthood. Were you aware of the College Diabetes Network? Have you recommended it to your student patients with type 1 diabetes and their families?

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