In the program for the ADS-ADEA conference, there was an unfortunate typo in the title for one of yesterday afternoon’s symposia. It took me a moment to realise that ‘Better Understanding the Needs of YOUR People with Diabetes: A Behavioural Perspective’ was meant to be ‘Better Understanding the Needs of YOUNG People with Diabetes: A Behavioural Perspective’.

It was in this symposium that there was a talk that certainly challenged some long-held ideas.

Dr Jessica Browne from the ACBRD gave a talk with the heading ‘Young adults with type 1 and 2 diabetes: more similar than you may think’. When I saw this in the program, I immediately winced. Not because I disagreed with it. But because I knew that there would possibly be some very unhappy people – predominantly people with type 1 diabetes or parents of kids with type 1 diabetes – who would not like what they were reading.

Controversial? Well, actually, I’m not so sure.

I know Jessica’s work, and I have a very clear understanding about what she is saying. And Jess herself took great pains to makes sure that everyone else in the room understood that she is not saying that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same conditions. (Bold, underlines, italics for emphasis all mine.)

Jess’ talk was about how emotional and behavioural attitudes to diabetes are very similar in young people – regardless of the type of diabetes.

This makes perfect sense when you think about it. Young adulthood is an often-challenging period of great change. For some, it involves studying or work or a combination of both. Some are planning families and moving out and buying houses and travelling the globe. Some are in relationships, others are not. It’s a time of a lot of self-discovery and finding one’s identity.

And diabetes adds an extra degree of difficulty – whatever type it might be.

Young people with type 2 diabetes face some considerable barriers to good emotional health. Unfortunately, they are often beginning far behind the start line, having to overcome a lot of social stigma and misconceptions about their health condition.

Yet when they search for information to help them out, much of what they find has been developed with an older adult audience in mind. Little of it is relevant to what a 25 year old is going through or addresses the issues they are facing.

In recent times when I have met young adults with type 2 diabetes, the things they say they need to better manage their condition and the how they say they are feeling about diabetes pretty much equal what young people with type 1 diabetes say they need.

Jessica called for tailored healthcare that is intensive, responsive, non-judgemental and targeted for young people with type 2 diabetes, which, when you think about it, is really not that different to what those of us with type 1 diabetes are asking for when it comes to treating ‘our’ diabetes.

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