Struggles of Diabetes Management for College Students

Open Access
Berglund, Jessica Marie
Area of Honors:
Biobehavioral Health
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jan Ulbrecht, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lori Anne Francis, Honors Advisor
  • diabetes
  • type 1
  • college
  • student
  • struggles
While it is often stated that college is a particularly difficult time for diabetes self-management, only a few studies have examined the specifics of living with diabetes during this time. The challenges to managing diabetes in college that have been suggested by prior studies include stress around developing independence and dealing with peer pressure with respect to eating, body weight, exercise, lack of daily routine and routine sleep, and experimentation with alcohol. The goals of this study were to find more about this population through an online survey. A survey was developed consisting of 60 primary and 14 supplementary questions. Participants were recruited from various networking sites such as Facebook. The questions focused on various hypotheses, which examined the impact on living well with diabetes, of the transition from parental authority to autonomy, of the various disruptive conditions mentioned above, of risk taking behaviors, and of interactions with health care professionals. Statistical analysis methods included Cronbach’s Alpha testing, paired t-tests and Spearman’s correlations. Managing diabetes in college was perceived to be more difficult than in high school, and quality of life was impeded by diabetes. Several of the factors suggested in previous research were also found to be correlated to perceived difficulty, quality of life, or last HbA1c. No significant correlation was found between these markers of diabetes management and transition to autonomy, risk taking, or prior or current medical team interactions. These data add to our understanding of the challenges of living with diabetes as a college student. A strength of this survey was a large (n=145) response rate, however, this self-selection process resulted in a group of participants who were doing relatively well with their diabetes. Future studies should focus on diabetic college students who have the most difficulty managing their diabetes.