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The Clinical, Psychosocial, and Socioeconomic Concerns of Urban Youth Living With Diabetes


Rebecca B. Lipton, Departments of Pediatrics and Health Studies, Biological Sciences Division, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., MC 5053, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: Young people with chronic diseases face the challenge of moving from the pediatric to the adult health care environment, in addition to the normal hurdles of young adulthood. To most effectively help them through this process, we must first understand their perspective.

Design: Qualitative study of the social and emotional impact of having diabetes.

Sample: Young adults (n=23), aged 19–26, who had been living with diabetes for a median of 12 years (range 4–19) were contacted; all but one were from underserved ethnic minorities.

Measurements: Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted, transcribed, and coded.

Results: Having diabetes profoundly affected the life choices and expectations of these young people; their feelings and attitudes evolved over time. Financial and insurance concerns were key, because managing diabetes care on one's own as an adult was a major challenge. Most young people reported that family, friends, and coworkers were sources of support, but that disclosure of their diabetes was problematic.

Conclusions: Offering emotional and practical support to young adults coping with diabetes is key to ensuring adequate medical management as they move into the adult system and assume full responsibility for their health.