Peer mentoring may be an attractive option for teens and young adults with type 1 diabetes to share experiences and learn the appropriate skills for managing the disease, according to survey results published in The Diabetes Educator.
“Because previous studies found peer mentoring reduced alcohol and drug abuse among teens and improved diabetes management among adults, we wanted to determine if teens and young adults with type 1 diabetes would be receptive to a peer mentoring program,” study researcher Yang Lu, PhD, of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, said in a press release.
“These findings open the door for determining the best means for helping teens and young adults improve their diabetes management and long-term health.”
Among the 54 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years and the 46 young adults aged 19 to 25 years, 78% and 89%, respectively, were not meeting HbA1c targets set by the American Diabetes Association.
About one-third of all respondents reported social barriers to diabetes management. In particular, adolescents reported issues with inflexible schedules, unfamiliar foods and embarrassment about blood glucose testing in front of their peers. For young adults, tracking food consumption and remembering to check blood glucose levels were common problems.
Researchers also found, however, that teens wanted to know more about managing their disease, including managing type 1 diabetes on their own or in college. Respondents were open to a various modes of communication, such as in-person meetings, phone, text messaging and social media.
Of all respondents, 87% of young adults and 57% of adolescents expressed interest in a peer monitoring program. Among teens, having supportive friends and living in a large household were major predictors of interest in a peer mentor.
“If they haven’t found support among their friends and family members, the teens may not have a frame of reference for understanding how they could benefit from a mentor. But they may well benefit as much as teens who are interested in having a mentor,” Dr. Lu said.
“We may need innovative incentives to make mentoring attractive to adolescents who are not accustomed to talking with others about the challenges of type 1 diabetes, or we may need to find other means to improve their disease management.”