The Impact of Illness Centrality on Social Support in Adolescents With Type 1 Diabetes


  • E. Doe
  • M. Dobson
  • S. Allen
  • J. Huber


Background: Type 1 diabetes (T1DM) is a lifelong metabolic disorder managed with insulin, diet and exercise. Self-care for adolescents with T1DM does not occur in isolation; a large part of it takes place in a social world. The behaviour of peers can have a significant impact on the adolescent’s self-care and subsequent health outcomes. Therefore, the aim of the study was to qualitatively investigate the impact of diabetes management on peer relationships in adolescence. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 adolescents aged 15-18 with T1DM, recruited through a local outpatient clinic. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Differences between male and female adolescents were noted in the impact on relationships. Themes such as “being different†and “being a burden†were identified. Females were more comfortable than males to involve and inform friends in relation to their self-care. An influential factor appeared to be “being a burden,†whereby the females felt that their disease restricted what activities their friends were able to engage in. Males often hid their diabetes due to a fear of stigmatisation. Discussion: It is concluded that a social support intervention focusing on the normalisation of diabetes and open discussion about illness management with peers has the potential to improve life with diabetes for both females and males.