Social Network Attributes and Type 1 Diabetes Self-Management Behaviors Among Young Adults in a Diabetes Related Social Group
Young adults with type one diabetes mellitus (T1DM) face unique challenges in managing their chronic disease. While simultaneously navigating major life transitions and becoming fully responsible for their diabetes-self management behaviors (DSMB), social support can be an integral part of disease management. Many young adults enroll in college where student organizations are prevalent including diabetes related social groups on some campuses, which provide a rich source of social support for students with diabetes as they transition to greater independence in diabetes management. This study used descriptive analysis and personal network analysis (PNA) to investigate which aspects of being a part of a diabetes related social group and personal networks, in general, are pertinent to successful diabetes management, measured by a Diabetes Self-Management Questionnaire (DSMQ) among 52 young adults with T1DM. The majority of respondents indicated that since being a part of College Diabetes Network (CDN) or another diabetes-related social group, they increased time spent paying attention to, and felt more empowered to make changes to their diabetes management routine, and they were able to generally take better care of their diabetes. Half of respondents noticed their health improved since joining, and over half felt less burdened by their diabetes. Though no personal network measures were highly correlated with higher Diabetes Self-Management Scores, the degree to which health matters were discussed within their personal network was the most associated personal network measure. Our findings help contextualize the ways in which young adults’ DSMB are influenced by participation in diabetes- related social groups, as well as introduce the use of personal network analysis in gauging important aspects of social capital and support in young adults with chronic disease.