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UC Research: Young Adults Who Are Also Managing Diabetes

UC Researching Difficult Times For Young Adults Who Are Also Managing Diabetes

November 13, 2012

A University of Canterbury researcher is exploring how young adults manage their diabetes and especially how they manage their fitness.

Adolescence is a time when young people take on more of the responsibility from their parents but it can also be a time of conflict.

UC masters student Mindy McPherson is surveying young people aged 18 to 24 with Type 1 diabetes so they can have their say about developing responsibility. A lot of research has looked at adolescent diabetes management from a parent’s point of view.

``I will be looking at the data gathered in the context of what we know about typical adolescent development, exercise management in adolescence and managing type 1 diabetes, a life-long chronic illness,’’ McPherson said today.

``The aim of this project is to discover the changes from parent directed exercise and activities to adolescent-directed exercise and activities and on to young adult autonomy.

``Participants are first interviewed about their exercise and activities during their teen years and about parent-directed to adolescent-directed changes. Then participants will wear an actigraph activity monitor for a week.

``After the week, participants receive a visual presentation of their activity levels. I’ll discuss this with them. This will give me an insight into their current activity level that they would not otherwise have.

``Exercise is an important part of managing diabetes because it makes the body use insulin better and is associated with a reduction in weight and stress, an improvement in mood, and reduced risks of developing cardiovascular complication in the future.

``Exercise changes the amount of glucose in the blood, so for people with type 1 diabetes it must be managed carefully to prevent hypo- or hyperglycaemia from occurring afterwards,’’ McPherson said.

Her project is being carried out under the supervision of Associate Professors Kathleen Liberty and Pauline Barnett of UC’s Health Sciences Centre.

By 2020, one in 22 Pakeha and one in six Maori and Pacific Island adults are predicted to have diabetes, in line with a worldwide epidemic. Diabetes is a major public health issue and a significant
economic burden.

The World Health Organisation estimates 346 million people worldwide have diabetes. Over 200,000 New Zealanders have diabetes, with one in 32 Pakeha adults and one in 12 Maori and Pacific Islanders suffering. Two out of three Maori and Pacific Island diabetics die from diabetic complications, compared to one in three Pakeha diabetics.

If left unchecked the disease would consume 15 percent of the NZ health budget in the treatment of complications, such as loss to eyesight, limb amputations, renal damage, heart disease and strokes.

Associate Professor Liberty said the key to prevention could be understanding how individuals come to be responsible for their own management, rather than retaining a dependent relationship on others for management.

``We are hoping that this study will help progress our understanding of this important issue,’’ she said.


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