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Diabetes stress high among college students, study finds

Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

Nathan Reilly has had Type 1 diabetes since he was a baby. And until last week, the 19-year-old always had his mother to help remind him of the litany of tasks people with diabetes must do.

Check blood sugar. Adjust insulin pump. Watch what you eat. Be careful how much you run around.

Now a freshman at Pennsylvania State University, where he is studying data science, Reilly, of Hatboro, feels confident he can manage on his own -- he spent much of his senior year of high school practicing the routine, preparing.

But of course he still worries a little.

A few times in high school, during hockey season, Reilly fell asleep with low blood sugar and experienced a seizure overnight. The experience was scary, but at least his mom was there to take care of him.

"I'm not, I guess, worried about it here because I'm not playing (hockey) -- it's less of a risk. But it's just one thing that I think about," Reilly said.

 

Now living in a dorm room, if his blood sugar is low when he tests before bed, Reilly plans to stay awake until it comes up.

Managing a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, can be difficult regardless of your age. But a new study suggests that it may be especially challenging for college students, who are adjusting to all the changes that come with campus life, plus managing a complicated disease on their own, without help from mom or dad, for the first time.

Diabetes distress -- which is different from regular stress and anxiety -- is high among college students, and can negatively affect their quality of life, according to a small survey-based study in Ohio. The study, by researchers at Ohio University and published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, also found elevated diabetes distress among faculty and staff, too.

"This is a population we need to focus on in terms of addressing their health outcomes," said Elizabeth A. Beverly, an assistant professor of medicine at Ohio University and the study's lead author. "If you're not controlling your diabetes ... for even four years, that can have a major impact in terms of complications down the road."

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