Photo Project Shows How Kids Cope With Diabetes

Living with type 1 diabetes of course comes with unique health challenges for children.

But understanding how kids cope with the emotional and social aspects of the disease could help influence patient care - which is exactly why researchers from three universities set out to document the real-life struggles of type-1 diabetic children.

For the study, researchers gave 40 adolescent patients disposable cameras and asked them to take photos of what diabetes means to them.

Results showed there are significant differences in how children perceive the disease, specifically depending on their gender and socioeconomic class.

"While type 1 diabetes research has rightly focused on the causes of the disease and its national prevalence, there is a dire need for more research that addresses children's basic perspectives on living with this disease," said study researcher Dr. Ashby Walker.

Pain, supplies and restriction

Overwhelmingly, the kids took photos of diabetes supplies - 88 percent of the participants snapped at least one picture of insulin, pumps, needles, test kits or other diabetes equipment.

"Diabetes means the burden of supplies," wrote one male patient.

Many of the participants - about half - also took photos of their pain: the bruises, pricked fingers and calluses that accompany type 1 diabetes.

"This is a scar," one female wrote. "Diabetes is about learning to get used to what hurts."

Males, researchers found, seemed to document the struggles of food restriction more so than girls - perhaps because females are generally more used to the idea of cutting calories, dieting or limiting what they eat, researchers said.

"Resilience" photos - pictures that symbolized how youth overcome the hardships and challenges associated with diabetes - were also less prevalent in kids from lower socioeconomic levels.

And female "coping mechanism" photos showed activities like journaling or art work, while these expressive, emotion-based activities were less seen in the male subjects' photos.

In general, all of the participants seemed to struggle most with the constant preoccupation with food, which can make day-to-day living more anxious and depressing, the researchers said.

"We believe this research can inform training for health care providers by sensitizing them to the ways youth from different socioeconomic classes perceive and experience the disease," Walker concluded.

The research is published in Diabetes Spectrum.

Source:
University of Florida

Photo by Nana B. Agyei

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