July 11, 2016
2 min read

Differences exist in type 1 diabetes illness perception among adolescent boys, girls

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Adolescent girls with type 1 diabetes may have more negative perceptions about their illness compared with adolescent boys with type 1 diabetes, study data show.

“The consistent findings of gender differences across the psychological measures implies that a tailored treatment approach for males and females with [type 1 diabetes] may be warranted,” the researchers wrote.

Line Wisting, PhD, of the division of mental health and addiction, department for eating disorders, Oslo Diabetes Research Center at Oslo University Hospital in Norway, and colleagues evaluated 105 adolescents (girls, n = 61; mean age, 15.7 years) with type 1 diabetes (mean age at onset, 9.6 years; mean duration, 5.7 years; mean HbA1c, 8.6%) to determine psychological barriers to optimal insulin therapy with a focus on gender differences and type of treatment.

Sixty-five percent used insulin pumps and 33.7% used an insulin pen. Participants completed the brief illness perception questionnaire, the beliefs about medicines questionnaire, and the adolescent coping orientation for problem experiences. The Norwegian Childhood Diabetes Registry was used to collect diabetes clinical data.

Girls had a higher score on the brief illness perception questionnaire than the boys (39.7 vs. 28.5). On all items of the questionnaire, girls had higher negative perceptions of their type 1 diabetes compared with boys (P < .05). When comparing treatment type, participants using an insulin pen had more negative views about treatment control compared with those using insulin pumps (P < .05).

Compared with boys, girls scored higher for insulin concern (P < .001), suggesting that girls have more negative perceptions and concerns about insulin compared with boys. No differences were found between boys and girls for perception of insulin necessity. Similarly, no differences existed between the treatment types for insulin beliefs.

Coping strategies were similar between treatment groups, but more positive coping was indicated among girls because of higher scores on “being social” and “solving family problems” (P < .01 for both).

“Assessing and addressing psychological barriers to optimal insulin therapy may be a clinically important starting point for treatment, and a possible supplement to standard somatic [type 1 diabetes] care,” the researchers wrote. “Normative data on such measures may facilitate interpretation of individual scores, although it should be noted that the mean scores reported in the current study are at a group level, and that individuals may score differently, regardless of their gender. An integrated multidisciplinary treatment approach [that] includes psychological aspects might broaden our understanding of why only one-third of adolescents currently meet the international treatment target of HbA1c < 7.5% and may potentially contribute to better treatment and consequently reduced risk of serious diabetes late complications.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.