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All in the Family: A Qualitative Study of the Early Experiences of Adults with Younger Onset Type 2 Diabetes

Adults with type 2 diabetes diagnosed at a younger age are at increased risk for poor outcomes. We examined life stage-related facilitators and barriers to early self-management among younger adults with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. We conducted 6 focus groups that each met twice between November 2017 and May 2018. Participants (n = 41) were aged 21 to 44 years and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the prior 2 years. Transcripts were coded using thematic analysis and themes were mapped to the Capability-Opportunity-Motivation-Behavior framework. Participants were 38.4 (±5.8) years old; 10 self-identified as Latinx, 12 as Black, 12 as White, and 7 as multiple or other races. We identified 9 themes that fell into 2 categories: (1) the impact of having an adult family member with diabetes, and (2) the role of nonadult children. Family members with diabetes served as both positive and negative role models, and, for some, personal familiarity with the disease made adjusting to the diagnosis easier. Children facilitated their parents’ self-management by supporting self-management activities and motivating their parents to remain healthy. However, the stress and time demands resulting from parental responsibilities and the tendency to prioritize children’s needs were perceived as barriers to self-management. Our results highlight how the life position of younger-onset individuals with type 2 diabetes influences their early experiences. Proactively addressing perceived barriers to and facilitators of self-management in the context of family history and parenthood may aid in efforts to support these high-risk, younger patients.

Authors: Gopalan, Anjali; Blatchins, Maruta A; Xu, Karen K; Altschuler, Andrea; Marshall, Cassondra J; Hessler, Danielle M; Fernandez, Alicia; Grant, Richard W

J Am Board Fam Med. 2022 Mar-Apr;35(2):341-351.

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