Peer Pressure: How Relationships Can Make Or Break Diabetes Management

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Especially during the teenage and early adulthood years, a person’s friends and peers can have a significant influence on their behavior. We all know about the concept of “peer pressure” when it comes to drinking and doing drugs in high school or college. But according to a study published in the journal, Diabetes Care, young people’s relationships with their peers can also have an impact on how well they manage their diabetes or feel distress about it.

The study examined 467 Belgian young people, ages 14 to 25, who had type 1 diabetes.

Through questionnaires, the teens and young adults rated their degree of peer support, peer orientation (i.e. degree to which peers influenced them), distress from diabetes, parental responsiveness, and treatment adherence.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Halfpoint

Photo: Adobe Stock/Halfpoint

Researchers also obtained HBA1C records from the participants’ doctors, which would tell the scientists how well each young person had managed his or her diabetes.

Those who described themselves as having good support from peers had less diabetes-related distress. Young people whose parents were responsive also had less food distress. Those who were good about diabetes management were less influenced by peers, had better HBA1C, and had less treatment-related distress, too.

On the flip side, those who were extremely influenced by peers had higher rates of treatment distress and worse blood sugar readings. This is the case because these individuals may end up neglecting their management duties for the sake of fitting in with others.

Photo: Adobe Stock/highwaystarz

Photo: Adobe Stock/highwaystarz

The study shows the importance of having supportive relationships when you are a teen or young adult with type 1 diabetes…and it also shows that worrying too much about what your peers think of you can have a detrimental effect on your state of mind and maybe even your diabetes management.

“Our study indicates that as a parent/grandparent/caregiver it may be informative to ask about patients’ peer relations,” stated lead study author Koen Raymaekers, who hails from Belgium’s University of Leuven.

That way, if there are issues with the patients’ relationships, they can be addressed and hopefully improved upon. That might not only benefit their blood sugar readings, but it could also make the young person a happier, healthier human being overall.

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A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.