What do young adults with type 1 diabetes want to talk about with their health professionals?

And how does this link to their emotional wellbeing?

By Sienna Russell-Green

It can be tricky to navigate being a young adult. It is a time when many things are changing. There are new experiences, e.g., driving, a new job, university. There are often changes in social support and relationships too. It can be even more complex for young adults with type 1 diabetes. They may struggle to find a routine for managing their diabetes. It’s not a surprise that mental health concerns are common. These include depression, anxiety, diabetes distress and disordered eating.

Health professionals are aware that young adults benefit from talking about their diabetes concerns. However, there is little research in this area. To help guide diabetes services, it is important to identify what young adults want to talk about – and how this links to their emotional wellbeing. So, the team at a diabetes centre in Queensland decided to do just that.

Their aims were:

      1. To identify what young adults with type 1 diabetes want to talk about, i.e., their agenda.
      2. To examine the link with emotional wellbeing and social support.

They developed the Diabetes Psychosocial Assessment Tool (DPAT). The tool includes brief measures of:

      • Diabetes distress (PAID-20)
      • Anxiety and depressive symptoms (PHQ-4), and
      • Emotional well-being (WHO-5)
      • Social support (2 items)
      • Agenda (up to 3 topics to discuss).

The tool was completed by young adults aged 15 to 26 years. They attended the diabetes clinic between 2016 and 2020.

In total, 277 young adults took part. The average age was 20 years. Just over half (53%) were female.

Key findings:

      • 94 (34%) people wrote one or more agenda items.
      • 162 agenda items were raised.
      • 17% focused on diabetes technologies and medications.
      • Other topics included pregnancy, body image, and eating concerns.
      • Listing at least one agenda item was more likely among those with moderate diabetes distress or with anxiety symptoms. It was also more likely among females and those who were older.
      • Those who lacked social support were more likely to have depressive symptoms and/or lower general emotional well-being.

The DPAT is a valuable tool. It can be applied easily in clinical practice. It can help health professionals understand the concerns of young adults. It can also help them to deliver personalised care to improve quality of life and long-term outcomes.

If you enjoyed reading this, check out or other blogs on type 1 diabetes and mental health.


Reference: Wyld K, Hendrieckx C, Griffin A, Barrett H, D’Silva N. Agenda-setting by young adults with type 1 diabetes and associations with emotional well-being/social support: results from an observational study. Internal Medicine Journal, 2022; 8. doi: 10.1111/imj.15919

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