Young adults’ experience of social support in effective diabetes management
The endocrine disease known as type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is increasingly being diagnosed amongst young adults. Widespread statistical information regarding T1DM in young adults is readily available. However, more precise information regarding the prevalence in South Africa and the factors that aid management are lacking. Increased attention is given to T1DM as it imposes strenuous management requirements and an economic burden, and ultimately affects these individuals and their families’ quality of life. Hence, diabetes is often referred to as a family disease. In young adulthood additional challenges include a threat to increased independence and such challenges may foster perceptions of being different from others. Young adulthood represents a key stage for the progression and integration of diabetes management skills. Receiving adequate social support is thus considered a crucial factor for adhering to management. Social support promotes feelings of consideration, acceptance, and importance in young adults. Therefore, social support forms a vital coping mechanism with the potential to influence more effective diabetes management. The research objective was to explore the social support experiences of diabetes management amongst a group of young adults with well-controlled type 1 diabetes. The study utilized a qualitative research approach and was governed by social constructivist theoretical framework. The final sample consisted of eight young adults with well-controlled T1DM sourced through means of nonrandom purposive sampling. Data was generated and captured through audio recorded semistructured interviews. Thereafter, by means of transcription and thematic data analysis, a rich and condensed description of the participants’ social support experiences of diabetes management were constructed. The findings of the study demonstrated the facilitating role that social support played in the participants’ diabetes management. Social support mainly encompassed aspects of being knowledgeable about diabetes management, providing practical assistance, and emotional support. Loved ones participated in gaining knowledge support from the outset and throughout. Initially, management tasks and the comprehension thereof seemed almost unattainable, but the participants were assured that they are not on their own in this process. The acquisition of knowledge was undertaken by parents by means of consultations with specialized professionals and interactions with the diabetic community, thereby enabling the participants to gain confidence in their ability to manage their diabetes. Generally, social cognizance of type 1 diabetes was related to perceptions of support. Knowledge of diabetes management constructively affected practical support as loved ones had the ability to assist in management tasks. Emotionally, when the participants were embedded in a family network and larger diabetic communities, supportive feelings such as belonging and empathy provided motivation and courage to continue facing the arduous management tasks as they knew it was not something they had to face on their own. The study highlighted the key role of social support within diabetes management as constructed and perceived by participants through interaction with members of their social network. Furthermore, the research brought to the fore the need for further investigation into how social support can be incorporated into diabetes management intervention and the supportive role of online diabetic communities. Finally, it became evident that there is an increased need of social cognizance regarding type 1 diabetes.
- Health Sciences