The lived experience of social support in adolescent diabetes patients

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


Adolescence is a time of change in many aspects of a person's life, and this time is further complicated by the presence of a chronic illness such as diabetes. Further, the metabolic control exhibited by teens is generally worse than at other points in life, with as many as 30-50% being characterized as out of control Despite extensive research on the interaction between the social milieu and diabetes control, results have been inconclusive or contradictory. The purpose of this study was to explore how adolescents ages 12-18 experience social support from friends and peers. A convenience sample of adolescent patients from three clinics in a small city in south central Montana were interviewed regarding friendships, use of insulin delivery devices, social networking, and the impact of diabetes on social interaction and daily life. An inductive analysis approach revealed nine themes: full disclosure, taking care of myself, getting help, making it a part of life, people who know are important, sharing information as positive, adults as negative reactors, age differences make a difference and heavy issues early in life. Technology, such as insulin pumps and online social networking, was found to have a major positive impact in participants' social functioning and control. Peer relationships with other teens with diabetes were found to be important and different from friendships with non-diabetics. Negative reactions and social impacts were found to be much more prominent from adults than from same age peers. Implications include the need for further investigation of how technology might benefit teens with chronic conditions, the potential for positive impact from peer connection and mentoring programs, and the importance of clinicians' awareness of patients' social functioning as it impacts care behaviors and general well being.




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