Psychosocial health of university students with type 1 diabetes

The SHoT2018 study compared the health of students with and without diabetes in Norway

By Jennifer Halliday

Living with type 1 diabetes can be very demanding. So can being a student at university. But very little is known about the mental health and quality of life of university students with diabetes.

Heiko Bratke explored the health of students aged 18 to 35 in Norway. The SHoT2018 study compared students with and without type 1 diabetes. It used a survey to assess various health domains.

Compared to students without diabetes, those with type 1 diabetes had lower quality of life and sleep quality. But they were also less likely to have unhealthy alcohol habits.

Importantly, students with type 1 diabetes did not have higher rates of depression, anxiety, physical symptoms, or risk of suicide or self-harm risk. They also had similar rates of loneliness, positive mood, and insomnia to other students.

The study also looked at HbA1c and diabetes distress in more detail:

    • HbA1c. Students with HbA1c in target range were less likely to report depression, anxiety, diabetes distress, suicide and self-harm risk, physical symptoms, loneliness, alcohol-related problems, or sleep problems. Students with HbA1c in range were more likely to have positive mood and quality of life. Some minor differences in sleep were noted.
    • Diabetes distress. Students with diabetes distress were more likely to be female and to check their glucose levels less often. Diabetes distress was not related to technology use (insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor).

In conclusion, this study found that students with type 1 diabetes have very similar mental health to students without diabetes. This is good news. But it is important to keep context in mind. The authors note the ‘optimal conditions’. This is due to the free education and medical care provided in Norway. Also, people with higher education levels tend to have better health. So, the findings could differ if the study were repeated in a different country or education system. It is important to note, also, that this is a cross-sectional survey. So, the differences seen between groups do not mean that one causes the other.

Bratke H, Sivertsen B. Mental and somatic health in university students with type 1 diabetes: new results from DiaSHoT18, a cross sectional national health and well-being survey. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jpem-2021-0041