Type 1 Diabetes & Young People

“What factors influence self-care and quality of Life in young Irish adults (ages 23-30) with type 1 diabetes?”


“What factors influence self-care and quality of Life in young Irish adults (ages 23-30) with type 1 diabetes?”

Researchers: Dr. Myles Balfe, Dr. Frank Doyle and Prof. Ronan Conroy (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), Dr. Diarmuid Smith (Beaumont Hospital)

This research project commenced in October 2011 and interviewed thirty-five young adults with type 1 diabetes, and thirteen diabetes specialists- including hospital consultants and diabetes nurses working with these young adults. Interviews focused on

a.) what young adults and healthcare professionals considered to be the main barriers to diabetes management in the young adult period

b). what young adults and professionals thought of diabetes health services in Ireland, including recommendations for improving these services.

The study explored the views of 35 young adults (23-30 years of age) with type 1 diabetes about the factors that helped and hindered them managing their diabetes on a daily basis. Thirteen healthcare professionals were also interviewed. Young adults in the 23-30 age group stated that their diabetes management tended to improve as they transitioned through their twenties.

Young adults gave four reasons for these positive trajectories:

  • increased lifestyle stability;
  • increasing feelings of personal responsibility;
  • loss of feelings of invincibility;
  • and intentions to have children.

However young adults noted a number of barriers to diabetes management in this age period as well.

Despite the length of time that they had been living with diabetes a number of young adults lacked a full understanding of how food and exercise impacted their bodies. It was notable that the majority (n=26) of young adults struggled (to varying extents) to fit diabetes in to their work lives. Some young adults also felt that aspects of the Irish health system, such as long waiting times, trouble getting on diabetes education programmes and difficulties getting to see consultant endocrinologists, undermined their diabetes control.

The majority of young adult interviewees considered managing diabetes to be emotionally difficult at least some of the time. A majority of young adult interviewees experienced anxieties about the future and the risk of developing diabetes complications. Healthcare professionals noted that psychological services for young adults with diabetes were almost entirely in the Irish health landscape.

Overall, the study found that young adults experienced increased internal desires to improve their diabetes control as they moved through their twenties, but a number of external factors such as work and health system factors could prevent these desires from becoming a reality. Recommendations are made for changes in service delivery to meet the needs of young people with diabetes.


Published in the following Journals

Balfe, M., Doyle, F., Smith, D., Sreenan, S., Conroy, R. and Brugha, R. (2013). Dealing with the devil: weight loss concerns in young adults women with type 1 diabetes. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22, 2030-2038.


Balfe, M., Doyle, F., Smith, D., Sreenan, S., Brugha, R., Hevey, D. and Conroy, R. (2013). What’s distressing about having type 1 diabetes? A qualitative study of young adults’ perspectives. BMC Endocrine Disorders, 13:25.


Balfe, M., Doyle, F., Conroy, R. (2012). Using Facebook to recruit young adults for qualitative research projects: how difficult is it. Computers, Informatics and Nursing, 30, 511-515.